The epic battle: Faith vs. Science

I sat in the front of a classroom at the University of Cincinnati feeling as if each word I shared with the audience was more jam-packed with wisdom than the last. There was an unexpected assuredness in watching 20 people furiously writing down every word out of my mouth, as if simply stating my date of birth was something profound. (I guess I understand why my high school teachers didn’t like me texting under the desk while they were trying to teach.)

There’s nothing that builds confidence quite like seeing a dozen lab coats take note of your every word

There’s nothing that builds confidence quite like seeing a dozen lab coats take note of your every word

When I received an email a few weeks prior inviting me into the classroom to speak and give the University of Cincinnati physical therapy students a chance to work with someone with a spinal cord injury, I was skeptical to say the least. An afternoon of driving back and forth, wheeling across campus in below freezing weather and, to top it off, being used as a test dummy for two hours did not sound appealing. However, something kept gripping me about that invitation.

I have long gotten over the fact that strangers are often quick to look at me in public as if I am some kind of spectacle. I’ve experienced enough double takes, long stares, and condescending words and smiles to no longer think twice about it. That wasn’t the issue here. Conversely, I had done the best I could to avoid anyone in the medical world since that first taste of freedom upon arriving home from the hospital in April 2010. Since the night of the accident, I had been told in every manner possible by medical professionals that I would spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair and I was tired of it. Who gave them the right to speak that over my life? I thought. What did they even know? spine

The truth is, they know a whole lot. I guess I initially felt as if by saying these things, they were speaking negatively about me or doubting my work ethic and mindset. However, as I’ve come to realize, speaking facts from a textbook is vastly different than speaking negatively about who I am as a person. In addition, as I wrote in “Seeking the Healer” I’ve learned I cannot work myself out of this situation anyway. It is utterly ridiculous on my part to take personally the sheer facts: My spinal cord is not correctly transmitting signals and based off of scientific evidence and statistics, this is highly unlikely to change. A medical professional is only doing their job by relaying this information to me.

This is just where my thinking may come in a bit differently. The Bible speaks on Jesus’ healing nature, including getting a few paralytic dudes up on their feet again. It also makes it clear that God is the same today as he was 2000 years ago (Hebrews 13:8). I believe for physical healing for myself, and people can think I’m crazy. I’m okay with that. At the same time, having full faith in physical healing does not mean I need to shun the medical field. Luke, one of the Bible’s key biographers of Jesus’ life on earth (who wrote about countless miracles) was a doctor himself. Why should I cast aside the benefits I’ve received from the medical world?

The ventilator? Lungs continuing to work was probably necessary.

The feeding tube? The only reason my body did not waste away.

The pacemaker? Keeping my heart beating sure came in handy.

Souvenir on my shelf after serving it's time for 16 months in my chest

My pacemaker is now a souvenir on my shelf after serving its time for 16 months in my chest

These three medical devices that literally kept me alive at various stages are just a small taste of the blessing that the medical world has been. As for the opportunity to visit the physical therapy class, it only reinforced this idea in my mind. With each question, touch, and test, old mindsets were gradually transformed. I was left to realize there were no agendas on the table aside from a group of my peers desiring to learn more about the amazing creation that the human body is and how they will be best equipped to help others in the future.

UC PT students

While I will stand firm on the truth of the Bible always superseding any textbook, medical study, or statistical analysis, it would be a shame if I choose to dismiss the many aspects of the world of medicine, both technological and people oriented. As it turns out, an afternoon sharing my knowledge and experience of having spinal cord injury with these students was not only helpful for them, but for myself as well. By the end of the afternoon, the veil had been lifted and and it was more freeing than I could’ve imagined. I now have peace that faith and science can co-exist.

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Contact info: Ryan.S.Atkins@Gmail.com
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11 comments
  1. Brian Tome said:

    You are putting on a clinic with your insights. Well done.

    Like

  2. Chris Dalambakis said:

    True. Did you see the debate last night with Ken Ham from the Creation Museum and Bill Nye the science guy? I was thinking that your blog post was going to be about that. Oddly enough… the coexistence of science and the Bible could be discussed in relation to that debate. They were focused on the differences between Evolution and Genesis Creation, but I think a parallel (and richer) discussion would be about where the beliefs and stories coexist and compliment each other. For there are many…

    Like

  3. Karen Woelk said:

    YES YES YES So often I find you write a piece of my story and thoughts. You did it again. You are an awesome man. To God be the Glory!

    Like

  4. Bob Fritz said:

    Ryan, You have amazing literary skills. You convey your thoughts, ideas and experiences in such a captivating way that I always want to keep on reading. And you make very forceful points without being over bearing, confrontational or offensive. This is a rare talent that I encourage you to continue to use, whether it’s in this blog or elsewhere in other future opportunities. Thank You for sharing that talent with us.

    Like

  5. Sarah Hackett said:

    I’m sure you taught the PT students WAY more than any textbook ever could! So glad I saw you in the hallway during your brief visit 🙂

    Like

  6. Judy Cox said:

    The way you are living with hope was witness to them of your faith. The Holy Spirit was gripping you to go to that classroom. No doubt you touched someone in that room for Christ. Another crown for you in heaven, Ryan!

    Like

  7. Sue said:

    Ryan, I appreciate you sharing your journey with us. I was thinking today just how much I admire your faith, your tenacity, your authenticity, & your transparency. Keep shining! God is using you in ways you haven’t even begun to imagine. Eph 3:16-21! P.s. I do believe you WILL manifest your total healing & walk by the POWER of our resurrected Lord! Do you still have the page I gave you from my Bible? Keep expecting. God’s “suddenlies” can come at ANY moment! Bless you brother!

    Like

  8. Claudia krisjanis said:

    Who knows what you and your body are going to be used for… You just might have the surprise of your life being the first one on some breakthrough. Never say never for sure to anything. I think your blogging has taught me more than going to church. You just explain difficult subjects and ideas things so well. Keep writing for us!!

    Like

  9. John Morelock said:

    as with all wisdom,–balance and insight are central. You have provided both here. Keep it coming Ryan.

    Like

  10. lisamarieluccioni said:

    Love this post, Ryan.

    Powerful. Resonates.

    Keep teaching. And learning.

    lml

    ________________________________

    Like

  11. Dana Dunagan said:

    Ryan, I remember being in grad school and how helpful it was to be able to put my hands on someone who actually had a SCI rather than practicing on each other as we attempted to have flaccid limbs. What you gave those students is invaluable. Becoming a believer has changed my mindset about healing and what I can do as a medical professional. So glad that you shared that with the students!

    Like

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