Last month, my wife, Becky, and I spent the weekend in California’s San Luis Obispo. This gorgeous college/farming community sits in a chilled Pacific Ocean breeze halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.


Called “SLO-town” by locals, I knew little of its cool factor while attending high school in nearby Atascadero during the early 70s.

It wasn’t until 2010, while training with the California Air National Guard at Camp SLO, that I discovered San Luis Obispo’s famed Farmers’ Market.


Thriving with college students and locals, this is not your basic farmers’ market. Dozens of vendors bring a country-fair aroma every week with block after block of amazing BBQs, funnel cakes, corn on the cob and crepes. 

After I bought a tri-tip steak sandwich, Becky followed my dripping BBQ sauce trail toward two booths, catty-corner of each other but taking opposing stances.


I left Becky for a moment to examine the booth manned by a local atheist club. I took note of the table literature. Mostly negative. There is NO god, NO Heaven, NO Jesus. Evolution rules, faith drools.  


Not much there to encourage a conversation, so I rejoined my college sweetheart who’d made a beeline for the Christian booth. That’s where she found the Bible Answer man pulling in inquisitors with the Socratic Q-and-A approach. He was promising candy to anyone who played his Bible trivia game.

Becky was reading the questions as I approached and I honestly heard her ask, “Do you have something more challenging?” Oh yes, she did.


This guy didn’t know who he was dealing with. Becky’s a Baptist Sunday School teacher from way back. I stepped away when I saw the new questionaire concerned the Book of Revelation. My seminary grades weren’t that good.

As I licked the bbq sauce from my fingers, I scanned his pamphlets about heaven, hell and the various proofs of God’s existence. There was little positivity there in tracts about how evolution and hell were related. 

Mostly, his brochures were a retread of circular logic. Namely, “God exists because the Bible tells us so, and the Bible is true because God says it’s true.”

Both booths were engaging in the science-versus-faith debate and asked their followers to commit to something Peter Enns calls, “The Sin of Certainty.”

This Harvard scholar and seminary professor wrote, “The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More than Our ‘Correct’ Beliefs’” and “The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It.”

His titles nearly make his complete case as he argues that certainty is dangerous and downright unbiblical. He cites numerous examples of where doubt played a prominent part in faith development throughout the BIble. 

I don’t think Enns would have seen room for doubt or questions inside these two camps represented at the market. Both sides seemed to be cursed with a dualistic approach that labeled one side as right and the other wrong.

Perhaps that’s because, as the expression goes, they weren’t “staying in their lanes.” They each sought to answer the questions the other was responsible for.

My personal approach is to allow science to settle the “how” or “what” questions. The job of science is to answer questions such as “how are landmasses formed?” or “What did dinosaurs look like?”

However, if you’re asking “who” questions like, “Who put us on this earth?” then I suggest you look toward faith because these are relationship questions.

Just as important as the “who question” is the “why.”

Why did mankind come into existence?

Or even more to the point, why am I here? Why are you here? Do we relate? These are all existential questions best examined through the lens of faith, not under the scientific certitude.

“How did Becky do on the quiz?” you ask.

The only question she answered correctly was naming the wife of the Old Testament prophet Hosea.

Turns out Hosea married a gal that’ll remind you of the 50’s TV character.

Gomer. As in Gomer Pyle.

Who knew?

Chaplain Norris Burkes began his chaplain career with both the active-duty Air Force and the Air National Guard until his retirement in 2014. He later served as a board-certified healthcare chaplain at Sutter Memorial, Kaiser, Methodist and Mather VA hospitals and continues to work with area Hospice. His column is syndicated to more than 35 accredited news outlets. Read past columns at

*Views expressed in published guest commentaries are those of the author or submitting organization and do not necessarily represent those of Folsom Times or All Town Media, LLC. 

Norris Burkes
Author: Norris Burkes