published Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

Faith Focus: Science and religion

Author tackles intelligent design in murder mystery.

The crime-solving clerics listed on the Clerical Detectives website (www.detecs.org) number in the upper 200s, but one of them — indeed a recommended one — is the creation of Chattanoogan Becky Wooley.

Grit Griffin, a not-so-perfect part-time bartender, would-be journalist and Bible discussion leader, is the protagonist in Wooley's first novel, "Non-Prophet Murders." The book itself, published in 2010, is described on the Clerical Detectives site as "an original story, enlivened by humor" and "recommended for being so different."

Now, Griffin and fellow detective and girlfriend Grace Willis are back in a second mystery, "Murder Intelligently Designed." The book explores the perceived clash between science and religion on the creation of the Earth and the concept of intelligent design, which posits that science and religion are not enemies on that issue.

Although the mystery doesn't get too deep into the controversy, Wooley says she personally came to the point after researching the topic that the two can exist together.

"The current provable information incontrovertibly proves we could not be where we are had there not been some sort of order imposed on [the scientific theories of the beginning of the Earth]," she says. "It's mathematically impossible."

Christians unabashedly should be able to accept proven scientific theory and still conclude there is a God, Wooley says.

"Those who insist on Earth being created in six 24-hour days -- you're not going to change their minds," she says. "But they're doing a disservice to Christians who want to pursue science" and a God who wouldn't allow the revelation of so much scientific information if it were false.

Wooley, 65, a minister's wife and former church secretary, also can't help putting her experiences and her frustrations in the book.

One of her characters, for instance, recalls being forced to attempt to speak in tongues as a child. That mirrored the author's childhood, when she was "frightened to death" by an occurrence at a Pentecostal Bible camp.

"At that age," she says, "nobody should be told they'll be unable to be a Christian and won't be loved by God" if they can't perform on demand.

The characters in the book also tangle with the role of women in worship, an issue still at play in various Christian denominations and other faiths.

"I have struggled with that my entire life," says Wooley, whose longtime Church of Christ denomination does not permit women clergy. "When I realized the Bible does not preclude women [from taking part in worship], it became so frustrating. A couple of characters [in the book] confront that, but they come to conclusions in their own way."

Wooley says she took the subject for "Murder Intelligently Designed" from actor Ben Stein's 2008 movie "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," which examines the issue of academic freedom and decides that there is little to none when it comes to the debate over intelligent design.

Once she completed the book, she contacted the former "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" actor ("Bueller ... Bueller") and Clear Eyes pitchman. He, in turn, read it and endorsed it.

Along the way, Wooley also pokes fun at atheism, nihilism and objectivism but hopes readers will get her main point -- "when you conclude there is no God, life has no hope and no meaning. You are hopeless.

"I play that against the hope and the joy and love between members of Deep Water [fellowship] and between Grit and Grace and their friends."

And, again turning to her life, she has the characters struggle through their issues and not run from them.

"You need to pursue [understanding], not run away from it," she says. "That was my problem. I had so many inputs from so many directions that I knew weren't true. I had to analyze things for myself and come to my own conclusions."

"Murder Intelligently Designed" is available on Kindle through Amazon.com.

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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