A Quantum Christian
The Man for Whom Science Proved Religion
Dennis Garvin grew up the second of three sons born into a Norman Rockwell setting in the Berkshire Mountains of upstate New York. After graduating valedictorian of his class at The Citadel military college in South Carolina, he went on to graduate with honors from VCU School of Medicine in Virginia and serve thirteen years in U.S. Air Force. By the time he reached his mid-30s, he’d met every one of his life’s goals. He had a family with children he loved. He was a successful physician with a good practice in Roanoke, Virginia. And, much to his own delight, he’d acquired a nice, four-degree-long, academic tail that certified him as a really smart dude. So why, having achieved so much, did he feel so empty?
It wasn’t depression; his life was full and active. No, the existential ennui was more akin to that of Alexander the Great, who surveyed the breadth of his domain and wept that there were no more worlds to conquer. And when he looked within, he saw a life of black and white. His wife at the time, by contrast, seemed to have access to a joy he didn’t. Her life looked to him like it had color. What was with that?
Raised in a Unitarian Universalist household, Dennis was a committed atheist. But, having adopted the ethic of his liberal feminist mother, which dictated tolerance as the supreme virtue, he had no particular hostility toward Christianity. So, with a semblance of open mindedness that way, the rational scientist in him started getting curious.
This was, philosophically speaking, new territory for him. But the time was ripe. A lifelong Darwin devotee, he’d started to realize that there were a great many cracks in Darwin, chief among them for him being altruism. He could explain away just about any human behavior except that, and it bugged the ever-living snot out of him. Worse, it had begun to dawn on him that he’d long parroted the phrase “science disproves religion,” but never actually questioned it. This was downright shameful for a man who called himself a scientist.
So he set out in all honesty to reexamine his assumptions. The primary one he’d accepted a priori was atheism. Okay then, he started out, let’s just say that there is a God. How would he have gone about doing what he did? Since the Bible, the book of Christianity, had been the first thing he’d dismissed, that was where he went first in pursuit of an answer.
A Dangerous Book
As he read, he became increasingly and utterly astonished to find that the Bible – the book he’d dismissed out of hand as a stupid fairy tale – was probably one of the most precise books of quantum physics he’d ever run into. This was not at all what he had expected, and as a scientist knowledgeable in modern physics, it started to turn his whole epistemological orientation on its head. Dennis had long been fascinated with the study of light, and to him, the quantum physics of light precisely explained the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. That brought him to his knees.
There was an evangelistic factor at work during this time too. His wife had introduced him to some people with Campus Crusade for Christ. Now Dennis had a stockpile of well-honed verbal projectiles designed to destroy belief in God or revealed religion in any form. He wasn’t just your nice, garden variety atheist. He was a predator, the kind of atheist Christian parents don’t want their children to meet when they go away to college. He relished destroying the faith of the poor miserable souls, and with his scientific credentials and the academic tail to back them up, he was pretty darn good at it.
But the good folks at Campus Crusade for Christ took his infantile flak like fearless soldiers. He’d lob one objection. But what about Christ? somebody would say. He’d throw another. But what about Christ? He ranted and raved about Isis, Osiris, and the Christ figure mythologically reborn every winter and how Christianity was just mythology write large. Patiently, they listened. And then came back with, Okay, but what about the God who loves you? Eventually, he ran out of arguments. The science had brought him to his knees. Through Campus Crusade, he became a new creature in Christ.
A Violent Man, Conquered by God
It’s highly unusual in America for anyone to come to Christian faith after the age of 35. For someone to do so on the burden of science is nearly unheard of. But for Dennis Garvin, that was how it happened. All that took place nearly thirty years ago, and since then some things about life haven’t changed all that much. He’s still a family man, though two grandchildren have been born into the mix. He’s still a physician, though medical missionary work has been added to the schedule. And still a pure scientist applying aspects of accepted scientific knowledge to biblical concepts, he’s taken up writing and teaching to disseminate the findings.
Another thing hasn’t changed. The good doctor still covets a good argument. Never one to do things by halves, the “really smart dude” who’s now fully graduated into an intellectually sound Christian compares himself in all humility to the apostle Paul, who had a confrontational style as the murderous Saul of Tarsus, then went on to preach the gospel with equal confrontational punch. But where Paul went on to preach the faith he once tried to destroy, Dennis takes pleasure in destroying the faith he once preached, aspiring to be the kind of Christian atheist professors and materialist scientists don’t want their students to meet.
“I have a take-no-prisoners mentality,” he says about them – not meaning the garden variety atheists, for whom he feels a brotherly sympathy, but the profiteering and predatory wise guys who pass themselves off as intellectually superior in order to destroy. Certainly he recognizes the command to love our enemies, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into playing nice with people who aren’t nice.
“I know those SOBs because I was an SOB. And I know what makes them think. I’ve got street credibility. And I can tell them, based on my credentials and my study, that anybody who retains a faith in atheism is an idiot. And they’re welcome to be idiots, but don’t dress themselves in intellectual propriety.”
“The big secret about atheists, the big fear of all atheists, is that they fear looking intellectually stupid in front of their contemporaries. They don’t mind if you pull their pants down in front of a bunch of other religious Neanderthals or people that they can label as such. But if you can go into their cave and, in front of their contemporaries, pull their pants down, you have done something. And that’s what I want to do.”
It’s not about scoring a win. It’s about exposing and choking off a predator that comes to kill.
A Violent Man Conquered by God
André Trocmé was a Huguenot pastor in the French mountain village of Le Chambon when Germany invaded France in 1940. As far as the war was concerned, Trocmé was a non-combatant pacifist. But when the Nazis demanded loyalty oaths and complicity with the deportation of Jews, he defied them openly. “We have Jews. You’re not getting them,” stated an open letter to the Vichy minister dispatched to Le Chambon in 1942. A man who knew which war was worth dying for, he was often described as un violent vaincu par Dieu – a violent man conquered by God. “A curse on him who begins in gentleness,” the pastor wrote in his journal. “He shall finish in insipidity and cowardice, and shall never set foot in the great liberating current of Christianity.”
Like Pastor Trocmé, Dr. Garvin is by profession a servant of healing. Also like him, he knows which battle is worth taking a bullet for. That’s why, for the sake of a generation subjected to smug SOBs with big egos and long academic tails, he stands not only ready but eager to enter the ring and do violence for the sake of the Truth.
This post first appeared in Salvo 29, Summer 2014