by Leon Hartwell
CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMNews) – Thomas Hennigan, Associate Professor of Biology at Truett-McConnell College, is passionate about teaching science, his love for Creation, and most importantly his desire to edify the lives of TMC students. “My number one passion here is pouring into the lives of students and being able to encourage them in the Lord,” Hennigan said.
Working within the Science and Math division, Hennigan’s expertise lies within biology as well as environmental concepts in general. He teaches the following classes: Concepts in Biology, Survey of Organisms, Principles of Biology, Microbiology, Ecology, Herpetology, Mammalogy, and Stream Ecology
“I love teaching biology and giving glory to the Creator,” Hennigan said. “As a product of creation evangelism, I was one who, before coming to Christ, was an evolutionist and it was the evolutionary worldview that was blocking my understanding of the Gospel. If it wasn’t for a few people who shared the Gospel through Creation, I don’t know where I’d be today,” he added. “So now my passion is encouraging people in the sciences (especially biology).”
Finding Christ amidst the storm
Hennigan shared his personal testimony, one that is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
“I grew up in a dysfunctional family, and was an angry child,” Hennigan said. “I grew up loving the outdoors especially as I got involved with Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. I wanted to know more about nature, so I thought maybe biology or natural resources would be good things to study. When I attended a forestry college, I got into a conversation with two Christians who presented the scientific case for an intelligent Creator behind the creation. This conversation rocked my world,” he said. “I was so distraught I couldn’t sleep that night. I thought I knew and understood evolution. I had a really good idea of how the world was formed and how we got here…but they presented a worldview that was completely opposite and my anxiety went off the charts.”
“The following day these Christian men asked our Professor if we could leave early, Hennigan shared. “We had been on a field trip to North Carolina studying forestry practices. This was the end of the week and we had spring break the following week. The Professor first said ‘no,’ then eventually said ‘okay,’ so four students (myself, the two Christians and another guy) went early.”
The journey home was difficult as circumstances arose that affected the flight schedule. In the midst of a chaotic situation, a busy airport and the uncertainty of the group making their flight, Hennigan watched as the two Christians began praying for God to find them a way home.
God answered the prayers of those two men and Hennigan found a way home. He promised the men that night that if he made the flight he would go to church with them on Sunday.
“We all get home, and needless to say, they picked me up on Sunday to go to church,” Hennigan said. “Now, the Pastor got to the pulpit and instead of teaching what he’d been preparing all week, he felt like someone in the congregation really needed to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I felt like he was talking about me the whole time and when he finally gave the invitation, I knew I was supposed to go up and give my life to Christ…but it didn’t happen during church.”
“When I got home, I went directly to the woods. I was so convicted and so overwhelmed that I gave my life to Christ right there in the forest,” Hennigan shared. “That was the beginning of an odyssey that would take many years to reconcile; how does one reconcile the Bible’s claims about origins with the claims of biological evolution?” he questioned.
What are you excited about for the science division and your future here at TMC?
“We are really excited because we are getting technology in our biological discipline – technology that Truett-McConnell College has never had before with regard to taking and actually doing RNA analysis and DNA analysis. We are in the midst of several research projects that are taking biology further. We’ve got under-grad students that are doing new things in terms of furthering the discipline of biology. I’m excited about the possibilities of turning students loose in the realm of ecology. Right now we are interested in the Ranavirus issue and how it’s effecting amphibians in the state of Georgia.”
How did God open doors for you to work at TMC?
“This type of job is a job I had dreamed about – just being able to give God the glory in a biology class at the collegiate level. I didn’t think it would ever happen because so many other doors had been closed. It wasn’t until one summer when Dr. Wise asked me what I was doing the following year that God just opened the floodgates. We never would have thought that we’d end up from New York to Georgia.”
Would you say that ultimately your passion and goal is to share the Gospel with students?
“Absolutely, yes. What I was concerned about with coming here is that I would be preaching to the choir. I’m realizing that this is not the case. There are some that are struggling with their faith. They are struggling with how to surrender to Christ and understand a philosophical worldview in the areas of biology. There are some who are struggling with the issues of suffering, which we can talk a lot about in a biological sense because much of suffering is caused by biological vectors or entities. There are others that are just kind of believing the things that their parents taught them, but have not had a chance to really investigate for themselves why Christianity is so powerful and why Christ is the only way. I get a chance to talk to students from all of these perspectives and it is challenging for me as well.”
Specifically, in what ways are you seeing God work at this college?
“I’ve been able to invite students to be honest in biology class and not pretend to be Christians; to just let me know, be honest…tell me you’re struggling with this. I’ve had students actually take me on to see how I would react. I’ve seen God work in some of these same students and see them transform from their doubts to belief after praying with them, or talking to them, or letting them spout, or giving them information to consider. It’s really fun to watch students grow as they begin as freshmen and we say goodbye at graduation. There are other students who are not quite there yet, and that’s okay. I tell them it’s okay. I ask them to let me know how I can help. I give them the chance to come and blow steam. God is still working on them, I don’t know what is going to happen, but at least some are talking and some are still sharing their doubts. There are others that are just weighed down by life in general, and they just need to come and get prayer.”
Leon is a junior English major and a freelance writer for TMC.
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