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Lifegate emphasizes God's presence in sciences.

Byline: The Register-Guard

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge

- Scripture cited on Lifegate Christian School's Web page

At first glance, the only unusual thing about Jacque Langenberg's freshman physical science class is that it has only four students.

But look again.

Today's topic is Einstein's Theory of Relativity, and Langenberg guides her students as they consider how the speed of light influences such properties as mass and time.

Student Joe Beaty, at Langenberg's urging, displays a sign with the word "Wow" as the class tries to fathom how a photon at the speed of light can travel to the moon and back in three seconds.

A few minutes later, Langenberg offers an observation not heard in most science classrooms: "Einstein didn't create this, he discovered it," she says of the Theory of Relativity. "God set all these things in motion, and we get to keep discovering things."

Langenberg then asks student Jesse Bassett to take his turn reading aloud from the classroom's textbook, "Science of the Physical Creation in Christian Perspective."

"Although relativity stretches our imagination, it should also remind us that our Heavenly Father, who is the Creator of the universe, is a very wise and intelligent Designer," Bassett recites. "We remind ourselves of the words of David, `O Lord, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep.' '

Langenberg is in her eighth year at Lifegate Christian School, a nondenominational school housed in a wing of a Nazarene church in west Eugene. The private school, begun in 1994, currently has 63 students in grades six through 12. An elementary school serves another 38 students at a separate campus.

In addition to science, Langenberg teaches history and Bible study - and serves as school counselor. Biblical creationism is the foundation of the school's curriculum.

In her physical science class, for example, Langenberg touches on electricity and magnetism, chemistry and geology, botany and zoology. But her seven-unit teaching template is tied to the seven days of creation as described in Genesis, the first book of the Bible.

Astronomy, for example, is related to Gen. 1:14-19, which tells of God's creation of the heavens; the emergence of humans is tied to Gen. 1:26-31, which describes the creation of man in God's own image.

"I believe God is much bigger than anything we know," says Langenberg, prior to class. "God is transcendent - beyond our human limitations."

As for evolution, Langenberg says she doesn't want her students to think of it as "a naughty word." Her textbook, published by a ministry of Pensacola (Fla.) Christian College, devotes several pages to evolution.

But it also labels evolution "a mistaken belief," cites biblical creation as "the only reasonable belief," and devotes four pages to Noah's ark and the flood described in Genesis.

Upstairs in another classroom, teacher Mark Hough is adamant that students in his upper-class science classes also need to know about evolution.

"If you want to have a discussion with people about the validity of creationism, you've got to know your stuff," says Hough, in his first year at Lifegate. "If I don't expose kids to evolution and what it is, they'll just really be unprepared."

Hough says his understanding that life changes over time doesn't necessarily require him to conclude that the world was created by a giant explosion 13 billion years ago. The study of science doesn't challenge but rather reinforces his faith "that Jesus was who he said he was," he says.

Hough's perspective is shared by one of his textbooks, "Biology for Christian Schools," published by Bob Jones University Press in Greenville, S.C.

"Those who do not believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God will find many points in this book puzzling," says the textbook's introduction. "Between true science (those things that can be accurately observed and measured) and the Bible there are no contradictions."

The textbook cautions that some Christians are too quick to condemn evolution, pointing out that all kinds of things, such as the automobile, evolve - that is, change and become more complex. Christians should know about biological evolution, the book says, if only to counter a Satan who "has used evolutionary theory effectively against Christians."

Tom Gregersen, Lifegate's principal, hasn't forgotten the days he taught evolution to fifth- and sixth-graders in a public school. "I was paid by the school district and that's what was appropriate to teach, even though I may not have personally agreed with it," he says.

Gregersen ultimately left the public schools to serve as director of Baptist-affiliated Camp Harlow in north Eugene, before arriving at Lifegate last year. He says it can be freeing for teachers and students alike to be in a setting where they're able to embrace both academic learning and religious belief.

Better than 95 percent of Lifegate's graduates, he notes, go on to college. That will soon include current student body president Jeff Keating, who plans to attend George Fox University in Newberg this fall to study biology and writing.

Keating, who used to attend public school in Junction City, says he remembers in seventh grade that many students felt their science teacher should teach creationism. But by high school, he says, most teachers and students were adamant that creationism had no place in the public schools.

"I didn't realize the freedom that was here until I actually came here," he says of Lifegate. "Here we can actually talk about God."

Courtney Lawrence, a junior at Lifegate, says she's attended private Christian schools all her life and so has no similar reference point. She has acquaintances who attend public school, including some who've mocked her for her views.

"It's just how I've been taught," she says. "They say in the Bible you have to have faith, or it's really pointless to have your beliefs."

- Jeff Wright

CAPTION(S):

Jacque Langenberg teaches physical science at Lifegate Christian School. Langenberg ties lessons on chemistry and geology, for example, to the seven days of creation.
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Title Annotation:Schools
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 30, 2005
Words:998
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