Doctor realizes importance of creation education
Lita Cosner chats with Dr Lainna Callentine
Lainna Callentine grew up as part of a large family of eight. Though she had a good upbringing, her parents were not churchgoing people. However, at one point, her parents would drop the children off at a local church to expose them to religion and to supplement their education. At six years of age, she prayed to receive Christ as her Saviour. “I began dialoguing with my pastor about faith issues, and he found that adorable! I stepped forward at an altar call, and wanted to be baptized, however my parents declined to allow it because they felt I was not old enough at the time. When I went to college I was able to make my commitment public by being baptized.”
Early love for science
As the fifth of six children, Lainna always wanted to learn, and found educational opportunities even before going to school. “My favourite activity in the summer months was to go down streams, turn over rocks, and look at all the critters. I also loved looking at my father’s old medical textbooks. Even at five, before I could read, I would look at all the pictures. My family was worried it would give me nightmares, but it just fuelled my curiosity.”
When Lainna entered college, she was “on fire”, being new in the faith. However, her faith and her scientific studies were very compartmentalized, so she did not see a conflict at the time with believing evolution. “It wasn’t an issue to me, I just believed what I was told. I didn’t care—God was God; if He wanted to create in 6 days or 6 billion years, it didn’t matter.”
Lainna says that she is a fairly recent ‘convert’ to biblical creation, in the last five years. It was her writing that drove her to finally resolve these questions. She felt that if she was writing a curriculum, she needed to know where she stood on these issues. She started asking genuine questions about creation, but unfortunately the responses she received were less than encouraging. “I was met with a lot of prejudice from young-earth creationists. I had just never thought about this issue, and people were criticizing me, even questioning whether I was really a Christian!”
She advises, “When someone is asking you questions about creation, don’t assume anything about their faith. A lot of people simply haven’t been exposed to this teaching. Instead of attacking, start with finding out what that person really believes. Listen first to understand where they are, and then you have a basis for discussion.”
These initial negative experiences could have turned Lainna in the other direction, but instead, she turned to Scripture. “I was intellectually dissatisfied with what I had found so far, but God promises, ‘If you seek, you will find.’ All wisdom comes from God, so I started really studying what I had been told, looking in the Bible, and at all the research and literature.”
Lainna found creation information, including information from CMI, which Lainna praised as being hardcore, in-depth research that was instrumental in equipping her as a creationist.
From education, to medicine, to homeschooling
Lainna’s passion was for medicine, but after college, she wasn’t sure if she could be a doctor. She loved children and teaching, and pursued a Masters in Education which allowed her to teach in the public school system.
However, she still felt compelled to pursue medicine and pediatrics. “I had wanted to be a doctor since I was four. I was very sick with asthma, and I spent a lot of time in the hospital. I was fascinated by how the doctors helped me to feel better, and I wanted to do that, too.” She feels that her medical and educational training really complement each other and help to teach and empower people.
However, her medical training took her in an unexpected direction. “Medicine had taken a lot out of me. I had been pregnant every year during my residency, and the long hours meant that I lost time with my family. Once I earned my degrees, I felt God was calling me to go home.”
Wonderful design in the human body
When asked for an evidence of creation from the field of medicine, she said, “As a doctor, the goal is to protect life and honour it. But dealing with sick and dying children in the Intensive Care Unit, often we are helpless as human beings to deal with the complexities of the body, and often we are just putting our finger in the dyke. I’ve come to appreciate the complexity of the body, because of the magnitude of what we have to do when someone is critically ill to try to balance the systems—and healthy bodies do it on their own.” God has clearly designed the human body as an intricately balanced system, which could not have evolved.
With her various experiences as a public school teacher and a homeschool mom, and informed by her Masters in Education degree, Lainna has a unique perspective on education. “No matter how old the learner is, whether child or adult, we’re all the same in that every learner wants to be valued and has an interest in learning practical things.”
Lainna notes that a lot of homeschoolers are really uncomfortable with high school science in particular, and she saw a need that she was equipped to fill. “I began offering classes with children in homeschool co-ops, and was invited to my first homeschool convention about seven years ago to speak and do hands-on science. And it just grew from there, until it became another full-time job!” She felt called to write a series of science books to help Christian homeschooling parents, and was able to find a Christian publisher to make that happen. The first book in the series, The Electrifying Nervous System, and the second, The Breathtaking Respiratory System, are available through CMI’s bookstore, as well as through other Christian retailers. She explains, “When I look at homeschool curriculum, this book is unique, because it takes into account the different ways people learn. For instance, being a very visual learner, I learned best that way. I also needed real stories to tie in to my learning. By approaching the subject from different angles, you can engage kids and stretch them.”
Lainna encourages Christian parents, “Don’t just expose your children to the creationist worldview, but help them to understand the evolutionist’s worldview, too. If we want to witness to others, we have to defend our faith and to do that we need to know the other side of the argument—otherwise it is hard to share the Gospel.”
For instance, when Lainna teaches biology, she uses a creationist biology book, but then also supplements with a secular book, so her children can understand how secular science interweaves evolution throughout their whole worldview. “When they understand how pervasive it is, and how indoctrinated people are, they can understand where the other side is coming from.”
Science shows God’s glory
Asked if there was anything she wanted to tell Creation magazine readers in particular, Lainna said, “Sometimes in Christian circles people are afraid of science, and feel there’s a conflict between science and Scripture. But the more you keep peering into it, the more God’s glory is revealed. With our finite knowledge, the more you understand, the more you realize that you don’t understand. And only our wonderful Creator could explain this complexity.”