Professor Stuart Burgess of Bristol University speaks at conferences around the world on subjects related to special creation, so we were delighted when he visited us at Scott Drive Church, Exmouth, on Saturday 19 November.
We had asked him to speak on ‘Are we here by accident or design?’. We knew this subject would attract Christians, but were keen to draw in an audience of non-Christians as well. In the end, many invited didn’t turn up — reminiscent of the parable Jesus told in Luke 14 of the great banquet. But, by God’s grace and the prayers of many, the church building did fill with an assortment of people, including a good sprinkling of either non-believers or those whose faith is not yet fully established.
A few years ago, I had heard Prof. Burgess being interviewed during one of Roger Carswell’s ‘Real lives’ missions, and I knew from that occasion that he was well qualified to speak about this subject, and had a striking testimony of his own.
Many academics come from privileged backgrounds. Prof. Burgess, however, said his experience was quite different: the family home was dysfunctional and he was a failure at school, leaving without gaining significant qualifications. What rescued him was an apprenticeship with a firm who saw his aptitude for design and sponsored him to go to Brunel University.
It was here he came into contact with Christians and found the gospel of Jesus Christ, lived out by members of the Christian Union. This answered the needs of his soul and transformed his life. A whole new world opened up, and a few years later he had to pinch himself when he found himself employed as a teaching fellow at Cambridge University!
His expertise is in engineering design and it was fascinating to hear him bring this perspective to bear. He explained, for instance, the marvellous dexterity of the human hand. How could it be possible for a random evolutionary process to come up with a design immeasurably superior to any robotic hand designed today?
However, saying such things in academic circles carries a price. He recounted the opposition he has faced, including demands for his dismissal from his current post. But, like Daniel in the court of Darius, God has preserved him and made him a blessing to the university and country.
Prof. Burgess recently led a team at Bristol which made improvements to the bikes used by British Olympic cyclists at Rio, contributing to their tally of gold medals and securing for the university a contract for the next Games at Tokyo!
Lee N. Emerson