2016-07-27

Viggo Olsen is a brilliant surgeon whose life was steeped in science. Graduating cum laude from medical school, he later became a diplomat of the American Board of Surgery and a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. In fact, his name has a whole raft of letters after it-M.S., M.D., Litt.D., D.H., F.A.C.S., F.I.C.S., and D.T.M.&H. He attributes his former spiritual skepticism to his knowledge of the scientific world.

"I viewed Christianity and the Bible through agnostic eyes," he said. "My wife Joan was a skeptic too. We believed there was no independent proof that any Creator exists. Rather, we believed life came into being through evolutionary processes."

The problem was Joan's parents, both devout Christians. When Viggo and Joan visited them in 1951 on their way to starting his first internship at a New York City hospital, they got an earful of religious propaganda. In late night discussions, Viggo and Joan would patiently explain why Christianity was inconsistent with contemporary science. Finally, in frustration at two o'clock one morning around the kitchen table, they agreed to examine the Christian faith for themselves.

Olsen implied his search would be sincere and honest, but inwardly he had already hatched a plan. "My intent was not to do an objective study at all," he recalled. "Just alike a surgeon incises a chest, we were going to slash into the Bible and dissect out all its embarrassing scientific mistakes."

At their new home, Viggo and Joan labeled a piece of paper: "Scientific Mistakes in the Bible," figuring they could easily fill it. They worked out a system under which they would discuss with each other what they were learning in their investigation. At the end, there would always be more unanswered questions. While Viggo was working at the hospital, Joan would research the issues left hanging. Then, on alternate nights and weekends, when Viggo was off duty, they studied together, analyzed, discussed, and argued.

Problems quickly emerged-but not the kind they were anticipating. "We were having trouble finding those scientific mistakes," he said. "We'd find something that seemed to be an error, but on further reflection and study, we saw that our understanding had been shallow. That made us sit up and take notice."

Then a student passed along a 1948 book called Modern Science and Christian Faith. Each of its 13 chapters was written by a different scientist about the evidence in his field that pointed toward God. Even though it was published before many of the eye-popping scientific discoveries that I've described in this book, the evidence was nevertheless sufficient to stun Viggo and Joan.

"It blew our minds!" Olsen said. "For the first time we began to see there were reasons behind Christianity. Deciding to believe would definitely not be committing intellectual suicide."