Liberal Pastors Rally to Defend Darwin on Evolution Sunday
Imagine this scene at a local church in your community:
Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from Origin of Species, chapter 15: “There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”1 Let us join in celebration, this glorious Darwin Day, in a word of prayer. O great divine principle, let us find within ourselves the strength to oppose those who would denigrate the memory of the author of these inspired words, Charles Darwin.
If this seems odd, consider that thousands of liberal churches might find this a great introduction to their Feb. 12 agenda. Not only are schools and communities rising to make Darwin Day an occasion for standing up against creationism and intelligent design (see MSNBC and LiveScience), many churches are joining the celebration of what Darwin symbolizes: the triumph of human reason over revelation. MSNBC states “more than 400 churches of many denominations – most of them in the United States – have agreed to participate in ‘Evolution Sunday’ by giving a sermon, holding classes or sponsoring discussions.”
The number 400 may be a serious underestimate. Michael Zimmerman, a biology professor and dean of the University of Oshkosh, put out an appeal to churches to sign a letter affirming evolution. He got over 10,000 responses to his Clergy Letter Project, all of whom are listed on his website by name, church and city. The letter they supported states that the Bible is not meant to be taken literally; “Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.” The stories from Genesis contain “timeless truths” about God and man and nature, but did not actually happen.
The second paragraph proclaims that science and religion are completely separate spheres, and that denying evolution amounts to ignorance and blasphemy (by denying the “God-given faculty of reason”). No such burden is lodged against evolutionists, whose ideas cannot be treated as anything less than truth:
We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris.. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth. (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
Zimmerman also included suggestions for how to celebrate Evolution Sunday, with sample sermons and a resources page adorned with a fatherly figure of Darwin. He is also taking an offering. His advertising campaign page is raising funds for full-page ads and op-ed pieces to promote the view that Christianity and Darwinism are compatible, and that it is a “false dichotomy” to portray them at odds. According to the page, the Christian Alliance for Progress (CAP) has agreed to handle the donations.
Not all Christians take these developments positively. As could be expected, Answers in Genesis finds it appalling, and also ironic that Richard Dawkins is simultaneously airing a very anti-religious message in the UK, claiming that “faith” and science are deeply opposed. Ken Ham is on the counterattack with a Biblical creation message for churches, reported the LA Times. Ham calls the compromise of churches with Darwinism treason, and urges and arms church members to aggressively defend their faith against evolution. For an I.D. response, the Discovery Institute pointed to “Evolution Sunday” as the height of hypocrisy. “Why do Darwinists think it is not okay for people to criticize Darwin on religious grounds, but it is just fine to defend him on religious grounds?” said Bruce Chapman, president. Others have wondered why Darwin deserves a special day when we don’t celebrate birthdays of other scientists like Newton or Galileo or Einstein. Whatever; according to an Associated Press story, the faithful may show up at church tomorrow for a party featuring badminton, bones and birthday cake.
1Darwin ended the Origin this way only because he wanted to forestall accusations of atheism. It was pure spin doctoring. Janet Browne2 explains, “When he needed to, he spoke cautiously of the Creator, aware that his book might otherwise be labelled atheistic. But he was careful not to allow the Creator any active role in biological proceedings” (p. 60, emphasis added in all quotes).
A clergyman of the time, Robert Kingsley, was “awed” by Darwin’s book and immediately set out to reconcile it with his religious faith, just like today’s signers of the Clergy Letter Project think they can. Kingsley wrote, “I have gradually learnt to see that it is just as noble a conception of deity to believe that he created primal forms capable of self development . . . as to believe that he required a fresh act of intervention to supply the lacunas which He himself had made.” Sound familiar? Here’s what Browne says about Darwin’s feelings: “As it happened, nothing could have been further from Darwin’s intention. Natural selection was a phenomenon that could never be governed, or set into motion, by a Creator. Kingsley had misunderstood that the main point of Darwin’s book was to remove the Creator from nature” (p. 95).
The next paragraph is instructive about how today’s disciples of Darwin use the clergy for their own purposes: “Nevertheless, Darwin snatched eagerly at these proferred plaudits. Urgently, he asked if he could quote Kingsley’s letter in the forthcoming reprint of the Origin of Species. He hoped to show that hysterical shrieks from the Athenaeum [a scientific newsletter] or from FitzRoy [captain of the Beagle] and Sedgwick [Darwin’s geology professor, a creationist] were utterly unjustified—that at least one prominent (if rebellious) Church of England parson did not condemn him outright.” Add 10,000 more dupes to the list.
2Janet Browne, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place (volume 2 of an award-winning biography of Darwin), Princeton University Press, 2002.
Let’s connect some dots. If you go to CAP’s News page, you will notice that they take a far-leftist, liberal progressivist stance on every issue down the line: pro-abortion, pro-homosexual marriage, anti-war, anti-Bush, anti-Alito, the whole blue-state shootin’ match. Of course, Evolution Sunday receives prominent positive press, while their bogeymen are the “religious right” and their bosom buddies are the ACLU and Americans United Against Separation of Church and State. We have illustrated this repeatedly. The ones opposing creationism and intelligent design are almost all political liberals and social radicals. This is not about a scientific theory, but represents a complete cultural, political and religious divide with huge implications. Ironically, the liberals who talk peace and compromise are the ones most entrenched in their position and least willing to listen. Who calls for the debates? Who seeks open discussion of the scientific evidence? Who really wants to open minds and have a dialogue? Usually, the creationists! It’s the Darwin Party that wants to dogmatize and stigmatize and indoctrinate, while shutting the door on “teaching the controversy” with threats of lawsuits. While snatching for themselves the crown of scholarship, and donning the robes of reason, the Darwinist liberal elitists look down their snooty noses at people who actually use reason and scientific evidence against their positions.
Consider one example: Zimmerman deplores the false dichotomy of theology vs. evolution, then commits an egregious either-or fallacy himself: to “let science be science and religion be religion, two very different, yet complementary, forms of truth.” This is very shallow reasoning that cannot hold up to scrutiny or history. Even pro-evolutionist Dr. Lawrence Principe (Johns Hopkins) in a new set of “Science and Religion” lectures for The Teaching Company admits this: both spheres have many things in common – science carries metaphysical and theological implications, and theology and the Bible have much to say about the natural world. This NOMA (non-overlapping magisteria) strategy of compartmentalizing science and religion into separate spheres doesn’t work. It is no solution at all. (Sadly, Principe winds up endorsing theistic evolution in the end, which is no solution, either. More on that later if time permits.)
Francis Schaeffer has taken this further in his book Escape from Reason, demonstrating how segregating Nature and Grace ends up with Nature swallowing Grace. Phillip Johnson, more recently, has also stressed the point the Darwinists make profound religious claims that go far beyond the flimsy evidence adduced in support of molecules-to-man evolution. He also understands the “two-platoon strategy” of the Darwinists. They talk peace to churches when the heat is on, sounding as if their ideas present no problem to religion. When the coast is clear, out comes the anti-religion positivist rhetoric. Many similar points have been made over the decades in creationist literature with ample quotes from the Darwinists themselves. This is so obvious we need not belabor the point. Signers of the Clergy Letter, therefore, are either liars or hopelessly misinformed. More likely, their liberal, leftist ideology comports more comfortably with Darwin than with Moses.
Before getting angry about what has happened to the church in America, realize that this is nothing new. Anyone who has read the Bible from cover to cover has undoubtedly noted a recurring theme: those who fear God and trust His word are often a persecuted minority, even within the sphere of “religious” people. In the Old Testament, “true Israel” (those committed to God’s word) was a small subset of political Israel. In the New Testament, false teachers and heresies quickly emerged, as Paul predicted. By the late middle ages, the “church” was burning at the stake saints who wanted to distribute the word of God to the common people. The most adamant opponents of God and his will on earth are often not the rabid atheists or pagans: it is the corrupt religious leaders: the progressives who call themselves followers of God but take liberal-line liberties with God’s word. There were the elders who made a golden calf in the name of Jehovah, trying to show that there was no dichotomy between the Lord and the gods of Egypt. There was Jeroboam, guided by apostate priests, setting up two golden calves, spin-doctoring this blatant idolatry as performed in honor of Jehovah (something the true prophets repeatedly called a great sin in Israel). There were the false prophets who opposed Jeremiah (Jer. 23) and Ezekiel (Eze. 13), the “foolish prophets” who spoke in the name of the Lord but whom He had not sent – who, instead of speaking His word, spoke out of the imagination of their own hearts and led the people astray.
The most telling example of all is how the religious elite treated Jesus Christ himself. Here was the Son of God standing in front of them, the Lord incarnate to whom all future generations of Christians should honor as the ultimate authority, the predicted Messiah, and look who stood in his way. Who opposed him and accused him of getting his power from the devil, and ultimately crucified him? The scholars – the learned class, the elitists – the scribes and Pharisees against whom He leveled the most biting accusations: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Matt. 23). These elitists, along with their rival elitists, the Sadducees, who joined to condemn Jesus, were the farthest from God while priding themselves as God’s special pets.
The common denominator in their attitude was pride. Rather than humbling themselves before the word of God, they elevated their own reason, tradition or status as more important than understanding and obeying God’s will as expressed in his word. In the Pharisees’ case, though they nearly worshiped the Torah, they took liberties with the meaning and added profusely their own rules and traditions with the end result of contradicting the clear meaning of the text. In the Sadducees’ case, their love of power and prestige led them to either ignore the word of God or take a more “progressive” interpretation guaranteed to preserve their status and political power.
These historical reminders are not suggesting that loyalty to the word of God is anti-intellectual or anti-scientific; far from it. They are lessons that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (acknowledged by the wisest scholar of the day, Solomon – Prov. 1). Fear of the Lord and honor for His word are the starting points. A godly scholar does not remain stationary at the beginning; he or she progresses into more wisdom and knowledge, yet always maintaining that position of fear of the Lord. There have always been eminent Bible scholars in this category. An ungodly scholar, by contrast, fears not God but the loss of man’s approval. Starting with human reason, liberal scholarship works out a system that may not oppose God overtly, but destroys Christian teaching indirectly by accommodating it to the fashionable idolatries of the age.
Fast-forward to 2006. Has anything changed? There are still those who fear the Lord and honor his word, and there are still those self-styled elitists who filter God’s word through man’s opinions. While claiming to be worshipers of God, they always find the latest ideas more comfortable than Thus saith the Lord. In the current case, ignoring the fact that Darwinism represents a complete world view of unguided, purposeless causes intended to rid God from the entire intellectual sphere, liberal churchmen rush to accommodate it because they have been told it is “scientific” (they just adore that word, whatever it means.) How do they achieve reconciliation? Not by altering Darwin’s word, but God’s. They relegate divine action to secondary causes, when the Bible states plainly hundreds of times in no uncertain terms that God created the world and life and man by His Word – directly, not through natural laws or a long, drawn-out evolutionary process. The God of the Bible answers prayer and is ever-presently active in His world and intensely involved in the lives of people. Most of all, He is a communicating God. He is there, and he is not silent.
Darwinism today is plagued with immense scientific and philosophical problems. It is a sinking ship, a lost cause, and a root of much evil. Why should any rational person, let alone a Christian, support it? Wake up, pastors: “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man” (Psalm 118). If there was ever a decisive call, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” it is now.
Liberal clergy should not expect to be treated humanely for long by their new chosen masters. Darwin takes no prisoners. His disciples expect unconditional surrender of all scholarship into an evolutionary, naturalistic world view (see footnote 1, above). When dealing with despots, history shows repeatedly that appeasement is a failed strategy. It would be better if the signers of the Clergy Letter Project rejected any pretensions of allegiance to God and the Bible. It would be better if they took their stand with Dawkins, Provine and all the other anti-Christian atheists who repudiate religion than to stand in their pulpits and say there is no problem between evolution and Christianity. It would be better to repudiate Jesus Christ, who believed in a literal Adam and Eve and Flood, than to stand in a pseudo-Christian pulpit praising Darwin, who viewed the Bible as foolishness. If you belong to a church that celebrates Darwin Sunday, get out. God will not be mocked. These false teachers are worshipers in name only (WINOs). Drunk on Dar-wine, when the party is over, they will find the hangover most disagreeable.