Former agnostic sees biology
as field for evangelism

by Scott Sienkiewicz and Norm Miller

CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMCNews) — “When I was cross-country skiing, I was not a believer; I was an agnostic,” said Bob Bowen, assistant professor of biology at Truett-McConnell College. “Really, I just didn’t care whether or not God existed. It just didn’t matter to me.”

Describing himself and his teammates at Northern Michigan University, Bowen said, “We trained hard and we drank hard, and that was the lifestyle” of collegiate, cross-country skiers.

Bowen’s conversion to Christ came after a tragic training accident during his sophomore year. “I fell. I got caught up on a rock and fell and broke my leg,” he said. “I can look back on it today and realize that was when God reached out and grabbed hold of me and said, ‘This is not your ultimate purpose.'”

Christians in Bowen’s dorm invited him to his first Bible study. “They invited me on outings — rock climbing, hiking and things like that,” said Bowen, who noted he heard new ideas, including the Gospel.

As God began to change Bowen’s heart, he realized his “self glorification was empty and hopeless,” he said. Reading the Bible for the first time, Bowen began to feel truth. “I realize today, twelve years later, that the perception of truth I felt at that time was the Holy Spirit confirming the reality of God in my heart.”

Learning about the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross “absolutely set me free from the hopeless depravity that I had come to know and love,” Bowen said.

Bowen still loves skiing. “Even ten years after I finished my competitive career, every time I see snow I try to strap the boards on,” he said, adding that skiing offers opportunities to interact with other skiers.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in physical geography, Bowen worked for the city of Bloomington, Minn., and continued his education at the University of Minnesota, earning a master’s degree in geographic information science.

After a year on the job, Bowen decided he enjoyed the science behind competitive cross-country skiing more than his job, so he decided to finish his first master’s degree and then pursue a second master’s in exercise science with a goal of becoming a collegiate cross-country skiing coach.

Accepted to an exercise science program, Bowen, within two weeks, was working in an exercise physiology lab. “I never expected someone could have an emotional connection to a laboratory, but hours and days passed in the lab, and I realized I had become a perpetual fixture. I just couldn’t shake the research bug. I was hooked,” he reflected.

The research experience drove Bowen to the University of North Carolina/Charlotte for doctoral study in biology. After that, he took a post-doctoral research fellowship at Virginia Tech and later accepted a position at Truett-McConnell. Bowen and his wife Julia — who is head nurse at the campus clinic — came to TMC in the summer of 2011.

“As I progressed through my Ph.D., that was the first time that I was really exposed to the heart of the biologist,” Bowen said. “I think in most biology circles, a very limited understanding, or a very limited relationship with God goes hand-in-hand with the evolutionary views of the biologist.”

Bowen knew gifted biologists with broken lives, and who suffered from divorce, adultery, and drug and alcohol abuse. The pain of their spiritual darkness and the call of God convinced Bowen to be Christ’s messenger in the biology community. “I want to witness to people, and I want people to know about the Gospel,” he said. “I want people to know that there is no conflict with the Bible and science.”

Affirming the authority of Scripture, Bowen said, “When you begin to allow Scripture to change you, not only do you begin to see clearly the realities of the world around you, but you begin to understand the science behind our whole created world.”

People are coming to the United States from all over the world and from all different cultural and religious backgrounds to study biology at American institutions, said Bowen, who believes that biology can be a platform to share Christ all around the world.

“It might have been too ideal of a notion to think that there should just be one light in the biology field,” Bowen said. “It became clear to me that we didn’t need Christian biologists in biology, per se, but we needed Christian biologists in biology who were promoting a revolution.”

Bowen came to Truett-McConnell College not only to teach biology, but also to train a generation to promote the biological revolution where science upholds Scripture and not the other way around. “This is the perfect place and time to begin to train biology missionaries, who are going to bring that revolution to the biological field,” he said.


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