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How to convert from Fahrenheit to Celsius (and the lesson behind this lesson)

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Leading study tours to Israel is one of my favorite things to do. The Holy Land is spectacular in so many ways, and the people who live there are fascinating; several have become some of my best friends in the world. I love the food and the culture, and of course, the biblical history and significance of the sites is beyond parallel. 

However, I don’t enjoy the way they tell the weather. 

Israel, like much of the world, uses the Celsius system for measuring the temperature. You’ll see Celsius numbers on your hotel room’s thermostat and on the bus that transports you to our various sites. If you look up a weather forecast on a local website, you’ll find it there. 

However, learning that the high tomorrow is going to be 27 degrees Celsius does not help me at all. Nor does seeing a “21” on my hotel thermostat. 

Of course, I could resurrect and attempt to use the formula for converting Celsius to Fahrenheit we learned in school: 

F = 9/5 x Celsius + 32. But multiplying the Celsius number by 9/5 in your head is not easy. Nor is adding 32. 

Then I found an article that does the work for us. It explains the process in two steps: 

  1. Multiply by 2.
  2. Add 30.

It’s that simple, or so we’re told. 

But it cannot be this simple, surely. The easy formula and the hard formula must be significantly divergent. But not so: between 5 degrees and 15 degrees Celsius, they differ by less than one degree Fahrenheit. Between 0 ℃ and 20 ℃, they differ by less than 2 ℉. Between -5 ℃ and 25 ℃, they differ by less than 3 ℉. Between -10 ℃ and 30 ℃, they differ by less than 4 ℉. 

In other words, when it is actually 80 degrees Fahrenheit, my new formula would say it is 82. I can live with that degree of error. 

Now I have a new tool I’ll use for the rest of my traveling life. 

Here’s the larger point: learning is important. Continuing to study, to discover, and to find new information and master new skills is vital to flourishing. 

We were made by God to be lifelong learners, a fact Paul modeled even at the end of his life when he wrote to Timothy, “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments” (2 Timothy 4:13).

To know Christ and make him known in a culture that is more antagonistically secular than ever before, you and I need to strive for excellence in every dimension of our lives. The more we know Jesus, the more we can make him known. The more we know his word, the more his Spirit can use his word to mold and use our lives. The more we learn about our faith, the more capably we can practice and share our faith. 

Jesus “increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). 

How will you follow his example today?