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‘Testing God: Darwin and the Divine’
Programme 2 [www.starcourse.org/jcp/testing_god_2.htm]
Commentary: Ours is a special universe. It is the one where the laws which govern it are so tuned that from the random bumping of atoms have come creatures who think and love.
Actually, the real observed laws show that ‘random bumping of atoms’ leads away from life, not towards it. So the above is merely an ipse dixit devoid of scientific proof.
Commentary: But why have we turned out the way we are? Once we believed we were unique, blessed with a soul and lovingly created by god in his image and likeness. Today, evolution says we are just a product of natural selection, the descendants of primitive bacteria, not the children of God.
At least he is up-front about the radical anti-God nature of evolution.
Richard Dawkins (Evolutionary Biologist, University of Oxford [and obsessive misotheist]): We are certainly special. I mean, we are the only species that has true language with a grammar. We’re the only species that thinks philosophical thoughts. We’re the only species that has music and explicit mathematics. So certainly we’re unique in all kinds of ways. Other species are unique in other ways, but it’s very easy to agree that we are very, very unique.
Actually, there are no degrees of uniqueness. Something is unique (one of a kind) or not. Dawkins’ hatred of theistic religions (documented elsewhere) is so extreme that he opposes the right of parents to bring up their children in their own religion. This atheistic totalitarianism he would impose if he had his way is not much different from the former Soviet Union’s ‘re-education’ programs in their psychiatric hospitals to ‘cure’ the alleged mental deficiency of denying atheism.
But that doesn’t, in any way, dispose me to think that we need a supernatural explanation.
Or rather, Dawkins doesn’t want one.
Darwin and the Divine
Commentary: The theory which has laid claim to God’s job as our creator is Darwin’s blind and meaningless mechanism of evolution.
Yes, that has always been the idea—to explain the universe without God.
In its footsteps, the human genome project has produced the master blueprint of our tiny chemical creators, our genes.
Ah, so decoding the sequence of 1s and 0s of a computer program shows that no programmer was needed?
John Sulston (Leader, Human Genome Project [HGP]): What the machines are doing downstairs is separating out pieces of DNA. We call this process sequencing, it’s reading out the string of letters from the DNA in to the computer. It allows us to do a great range of things in terms of discovering more about how we work, because this string of letters is the basic set of instructions to make a human being.
The HGP uncovered some fascinating features of our design—see Message Mania: Deciphering the human genome: what does it mean?
John Sulston: This thread of DNA, it’s actually my own DNA, not that we’ve been using this for sequencing, it’s just for fun that I’ve cut some of my own hair, and you can see this little thread floating around. Inside that thread are molecules of DNA which contain all the instructions to make my particular body. We can do exactly the same for you, and we’d have something that looked just the same, but it would have minutely different instructions, and it would make, if it were applied, it would make a you rather than a me.
As he explains later, geneticists know there is more to life than DNA, called epigenetic factors. And our personality is also conditioned (but not determined) by our environment.
Commentary: It has been claimed that this will explain everything we need to know about ourselves, reducing the mystery of our being to a soulless struggle of DNA to reproduce itself.
This hardly explains how thought itself can be rational, if it’s just the result of a survival of the fittest DNA. It would mean that our thoughts were just adaptations for survival, not for rationality. And this applies to the Darwinist thoughts of atheists as well!
Anita Lasker-Wallfisch: My mother was a musician, she was a violinist. I had a tiny cello, and my mother could put it under her chin. My son is a musician, two of my grandsons are musicians. One grandson is a cellist, and also plays the piano, and is very interested in singing, and the other grandson is a composer and he also plays the piano very well and conducts.
Commentary: Science now has the means to understand this musical family. Inside every one of us are the genes which made us and define us, the same genes which made our ancestors and will make our children. An unbroken line of genes.
But it may be simplistic to claim that musical ability is just a matter of genetics. It may be partly explainable by a musical upbringing. Many top musicians come from non-musical families and vice versa.
Commentary: But what does this mean for our image of ourselves and of god?
John Sulston: I think that not just reading out this code, but the whole business of molecular biology, of learning in the most microscopically ultimate atomic detail of how our bodies work, completely changes one’s conception, not only of the universe, but of our place in it, and some degree of what we are.
Why? A detailed analysis of computer microchips should provide even more insight into the ingenuity of the computer designer.
John Sulston: You come to realise that you have the power of understanding, where before there was the darkness of ignorance.
Commentary: The more scientists have studied us, the more evidence they have found that we are built by DNA, not by God.
Why not by God who programmed the instructions in DNA? This simple question shows the complete lack of logic in this program. Even more so when they claim that the programs in the DNA lack a programmer. See also DNA: marvelous messages or mostly mess?
Commentary: According to science, we exist as the gladiators of our selfish genes, and only the fittest survive.
John Sulston: The notion of evolution is enormously important. It’s the key concept of biology that’s moved us from thinking that we had to have an active thinking creator at every step guiding it, to the saying, no, it could happen by itself.
Once more, a great admission that evolution’s primary motivation is a way to explain the complexity of life without God. See Darwin’s real message: have you missed it? and The belief system behind evolution.
John Sulston: Something that people used to love to invoke was the eye. They would always say, how can that eye have evolved by chance, and people would write long treatises as proving how it couldn’t happen by chance. But, of course, the point is it didn’t happen by chance, or at least not by a single chance.
Or by multiple chances. See this refutation of eye evolution.
Richard Dawkins: Although it seems almost conceivable to anyone that you could get something as complicated as a human from a bacterial starting point, it’s not inconceivable that you could get something as complicated as a human from something slightly less complicated. And it’s not inconceivable that you could get that from something slightly less complicated still. So if you break the whole problem down in to a whole series of tiny steps, then it ceases to be unbelievable and it becomes perfectly credible.
But Dawkins doesn’t really do this. While he talks about ‘climbing Mt Improbable’ up a gentle slope in a series of tiny steps, in reality he starts from a sheer ledge way up the top—see this critique.
Commentary: So for many scientists, evolution has killed the god who fashioned us from clay. The new Gospel is that we are evolved, we are built by genes, Darwin was right.
How could Darwin be right about us being built by genes when he didn’t know about genes? He believed in a discredited view of pangenes and inheritance of acquired characteristics. It took the creationist Gregor Mendel to discover genes, and this killed the original Darwinism (now replaced by the neo-Darwininian synthesis trying to combine genetics and natural selection).
Richard Dawkins: Biology is the field where God really did his best work, and so in a way, Darwin pulled a much bigger rug out from under God’s feet than physics has ever done.
Rather, it gave atheists an excuse for their faith, which was the whole idea.
Commentary: Before long, evolution was no longer seriously challenged as the basic explanation of our existence.
Of course not—when the new establishment decrees that no challenges to materialism are allowed—see The Rules of the Game: As the ‘rules’ of science are now defined, creation is forbidden as a conclusion—even if true and Games some people play: The supreme rule of this game is to stifle arguments against evolution—any way you can. The atheistic anticreationist Eugenie Scott, leader of the atheist-founded-and-operated anticreationist organization pretentiously called the National Center for Science Education, inadvertently admitted why:
‘In my opinion, using creation and evolution as topics for critical-thinking exercises in primary and secondary schools is virtually guaranteed to confuse students about evolution and may lead them to reject one of the major themes in science.’1
I.e. if you inform students of any problems with evolution, they might end up rejecting it! And that would leave them without any intellectual support for atheism, and we can’t have that!
Commentary: The motor of this process was seen as the gene’s simple and selfish determination to survive. But there was a problem. How could a selfish motor produce beauty, unselfishness, and the sheer complexity of human behaviour.
Anita Lasker-Wallfisch: There’s something that I remember, it’s a very trivial story, but I was in a tram, and Jews weren’t allowed to sit down, they had to stand up outside, et cetera, and I saw the mother of a school mate of mine, I’m going now back to the school where we are still mixed Aryans and Jews, and she saw me and got up—she was sitting. She got up, and stood next to me, never said anything, but it was a silent gesture of ‘I don’t agree with this.’ I mean, with all the things that I have lived through and seen. This is something that stuck in my mind, so it must have been an important message to me at the time, that not everybody is on the side of the Nazis.
These anti-Semitic laws were only one example of the horror of the Nazi régime. She herself was an Auschwitz survivor—see Death camp survivor owes her life to the cello. We have often pointed out the evolutionary basis for this, e.g. The Holocaust and evolution and Nazis planned to exterminate Christianity. And this year, Dr Richard Weikart, associate professor of modern European history at California State University, Stanislaus, wrote From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany. He showed where the Nazi eugenics and racial programs with all their atrocities came from. He argued that they would have been impossible without the German cultural élite’s enthusiastic adoption of Darwinian evolution and replacing the Judeo-Christian sanctity of life ethic (see review). The same dogma is pushed in the former Allied countries in programs such as these and in the public education system, with no dissent tolerated (see Contemporary suppression of the theistic worldview). Wiekart’s book implicitly warns that the same dogmatic belief system as the Nazis could lead to the same practices.
Commentary: This was the real dilemma at the heart of evolution. If the problem with god was the existence of evil, the problem with the selfish gene was the existence of good. In the Bronx district of New York, this paradox is clear. Amid poverty and deprivation, goodness clearly survives. People were willing to acknowledge evolution, but not its apparent corollary, that unselfishness was just a distortion of our true selfish nature.
Rev. Martha Overal (St Ann’s Church South Bronx): The Gospel of John says, can anything good come out of Nazareth?
No, John’s Gospel just reports this errant rhetorical question from Nathanael. Not everything reported in the Bible is endorsed by the Bible.
Rev. Martha Overal: Well, Nazareth is very much like the South Bronx. They’re both poor communities full of outcasts, people who aren’t treated very well by society, and the rest of society looks at the South Bronx and says, can anything good come out of the South Bronx? Well, yes, a heck of a lot of good can come out of the South Bronx.
Not as good as Jesus …
Rev. Martha Overall: Everyday experience tells me that basically human beings are good at the outset, and children, when they’re dropped from heaven are good. It’s just the sophistry of the world that messes them up, that makes people feel that it’s totally acceptable to step on other people in order to get themselves ahead.
Experience is a very poor guide. Rather, it must be judged by Scripture. However, it’s typical of these programs to hand-pick the über-liberal ministers who care nothing for Scripture unless they can exploit it for their ends.
The Bible tells us that humans were originally created good, but despite the best possible environment, they fell into sin. Now their progeny are born sinners. Romans 3:23 tells us, ‘… all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.’ Man puts entirely too much focus on thinking of himself as ‘good’, when he should be looking to God for goodness. It isn’t sophistry, it is sin that corrupts.
G.K. Chesterton said in contrast to Overall that original sin was the easiest Christian doctrine to prove by experience. Parents don’t have to teach their children to be bad, but only to be good.
This doesn’t mean people are as bad as they can possibly be. We are still made in the image of God, just fallen images.
Commentary: So the good side of human nature became a problem for evolutionists. If they wanted people to understand that they were not the product of god’s design, they had to explain how a species driven only by the need to survive could create notions of morality.
But even this could not explain objective morality. All it can explain is why people think some things are right and other things wrong. It can’t say that some things are actually right and others actually wrong.
Two evolutionists wrote a book claiming that rape was in men’s genes, as a way to propagate themselves. A Christian interviewed one of them, who was tied up in knots trying to justify under his own belief system why rape is wrong—see interview.
Geoffrey Miller (Evolutionary Psychologist London School of Economics): I think a way in which human nature got over-simplified was this phrase, survival of the fittest, was viewed as the only legitimate explanation for human nature. So everything that was of interest, you had to find a ‘survival value’ for it. For many of the most interesting aspects of human nature, like consciousness or poetic language, or a sense of humour, or the moral virtues, it’s very hard to find survival pay-offs for those things.
Even many evolutionists regard evolutionary psychology as vacuous. It can make up just-so stories to explain any state of affairs, so really explains nothing. A New Scientist review of Miller’s book The Mating Mind said:
‘How does one actually test these ideas? Without a concerted effort to do this, evolutionary psychology will remain in the realms of armchair entertainment rather than real science.’2
A leading evolutionary paleoanthropologist, Ian Tattersall, was equally scathing of Miller’s book:
Rev. Martha Overall: I don’t think we can possibly afford to ignore the good side of people, because that’s basically what the truth is, and we get carried away with theories based on incidents, and—and a few statistics, and there are very superficial factual analysis. The real truth is the goodness in the hearts of people, especially the hearts of these children, of mothers who will go out and—and save somebody who’s homeless and drunk and addicted, who’s in trouble out on the street simply because in their words, I’m a mother too. That kind of relationship to another human being on the basis of nothing more than their humanity and their basic goodness, one to another, is far more truthful than a bunch of numbers.
This is consistent with God’s law being written on people’s hearts (Romans 2:14–16), which should inform their consciences. However, these passages also teach that no one follows even their own conscience properly.
Commentary: And the more we unravelled the constituent elements of our genetic make up, the more puzzling became the very things we valued about ourselves. With God, it was simple. The nature we’d been given had goodness and altruism within it. But selfish genes, what could they give us but selfishness?
Geoffrey Miller: It was fashionable to take a sort of evolutionary, reductionist view that said there really isn’t any such thing as genuine altruism. What that was reflecting was the relatively simple state of evolutionary theory at the time. At the time, basically the way that you explained kindness was either people are kind to their genetic relatives with whom they share genes, so they’re really promoting copies of the same genes, so that’s why parents are kind to kids, and why you’re kind to your nieces and nephews as well.
The kin selection idea. However, neither this nor any other evolutionary idea can justify why altruism is objectively morally right, and selfishness objectively morally wrong.
Geoffrey Miller: Or you have sort of short term trading relationships, reciprocity of relationships, and you can explain those, and everything else tended to be pigeon-holed in to one of those two categories, either it’s nepotism, or it’s short term reciprocity. There was a tendency to say everything sort of kind and gentle and spiritual about human nature is a sort of facade, is a sort of gloss on selfish genes that are ticking away underneath. I think it’s the exact opposite. And I think selfy, nasty and brutish is learned behaviour.
Commentary: This is the impasse that has held for the last 30 years. As long as evolution failed to offer a full explanation of human nature, the good as well as the bad, then it did seem we had to be more than evolved creatures, and there was a need for something beyond the genes.
Richard Dawkins: Some people think that there must be something in religion, because they look inside themselves, and they see themselves as being good, or altruistic, or loving, and they think that evolution can’t explain that, and so they see this as a deficiency in science, and then they say, well, if science is wrong, therefore God must explain it.
Science may not be wrong at all, since evolutionary just-so story-telling is not science!
Richard Dawkins: You don’t immediately say, oh, science can’t explain it, therefore God, it’s completely illogical. It could be that if science can’t explain it, nothing can explain it. Or it could be—this is what I actually believe, if science can’t explain it, then we’ve got to do better science. We’ve got to improve our science until it can explain it.
But Dawkins redefines ‘science’ as naturalism. So in reality he is not being scientific at all, since he dismisses a priori one possible explanation. As philosopher and apologist J.P. Moreland put it:
‘But some will object, “If we allowed appealing to God anytime we don’t understand something, then science itself would be impossible, for science proceeds on the assumption of natural causality.” This argument is a red herring. It is true that science is not compatible with just any form of theism, particularly a theism that holds to a capricious god who intervenes so often that the contrast between primary and secondary causality is unintelligible. But Christian theism holds that secondary causality is God’s usual mode and primary causality is infrequent, comparatively speaking. That is why Christianity, far from hindering the development of science, actually provided the womb for its birth and development.’4
Commentary: In part, the battle between religion and evolution has been over whose explanation of human nature is more realistic.
No, it’s a battle of two world views—religions—and the scientific arguments each side uses to support their view. But followers of the humanist religion have largely managed to make sure the establishment considers the evidence only within their religious framework.
Commentary: Evolution in its simplest form struggled to accommodate anything but the most one-sided view of human nature. So more recently, some evolutionary theorists have been adapting the theory to explain our gentler side.
Geoffrey Miller: I think it’s actually more scientific to say altruism is real, kindness is real, romantic love is real, how do we explain it, rather than to sort of sweep it under the carpet and say, oh, that’s just culture.
Commentary: Geoffrey Miller is one of a new breed of evolutionary psychologists who are trying to show that evolution need not view the good side of us as something outside biology.
Commentary: Miller’s argument is that the survival of the fittest is only part of our evolutionary story. Our ultimate raison d’être is to reproduce.
According to our Creator, our ultimate raison d’être is to know Him and enjoy Him forever. In heaven there will be no reproduction (Matthew 22:30).
Geoffrey Miller: So it’s not just natural selection between predator and its prey that shapes us, but sexual selection as well.
Creationists deny neither natural selection nor sexual selection. For example, both probably had roles in developing the different ‘races’ or people groups after Babel—see How did all the different ‘races’ arise (from Noah’s family)?
Geoffrey Miller: We think survival of the fittest couldn’t go the whole distance in accounting for human nature, and we think there must have been something else to fill that gap, and I’m saying sexual selection is what fills the gap, because it’s capable of noticing anything that we can even talk about. If I notice that somebody else has a rich consciousness and I sort of wonder, why do they have that, my capacity for noticing that contains the answer, it says, I noticed that that might influence a sexual choice I make with regard to that person, it might make them more attractive to me, and just by admitting that you’re saying that’s subject to sexual selection. We have this amazing window in to the minds and souls of other people that other animals don’t, because we have language, because we have rich social lives. And that means sexual selection has the power to reach in to these moral virtues and these spiritual interests and to shape them in a way that it couldn’t do in any other species.
Even sexual selection can only select what mutation provides. Yet there is no evidence that mutations can generate the encyclopedic quantities of information required.
Commentary: According to Miller, this is the crucible of human evolution. The sexual tension between men and women is what has driven our evolution and shaped our natures.
However, evolutionary psychology is so plastic that it can explain both one condition and its diametric opposite. So in reality, it explains nothing.
Geoffrey Miller: When I think about how sexual attraction might have worked among our ancestors, is they were sort of going through the final spurt on the way to becoming modern Homo sapiens, I tend to think of them as conspicuously displaying their capacities for sympathy and kindness, so anything that would have been sexually attractive, would have been subject to sexual choice, sexual choice could have amplified these traits, made them more elaborate, more conspicuous, more easily displayed. It is an argument for runaway kindness in the same way that runaway sexual selection can explain the size of the peacock’s tail.
But once again, it can’t explain the origin of the pattern, ultimately from random mutations. See The beauty of the peacock tail and the problems with the theory of sexual selection.
Geoffrey Miller: In our species it explains the size of our hearts and our capacity for romantic commitment, and I think the sort of intricacy and depth of our consciousness as well.
Commentary: If this version of evolutionary theory is right, the implication seems to be that you can explain morality and goodness in our midst, not to mention beauty and justice, without invoking God.
Here we go again. But still, the compromising churchian allies of the atheists are blind to the overwhelming atheistic bias behind evolutionary theory. Then they lament the decline of the church’s influence in society.
Commentary: And for many scientists, once there was no longer a mysterious part of our nature, that only god could explain, then god had to go.
Richard Dawkins: Evolution undermines the necessity for God. It undermines the positive reason why one might have wanted to believe in him. So it makes God superfluous, it makes it an unnecessary hypothesis.
Commentary: Many people accepted that line, that evolutionary theory and religion must be completely incompatible.
Because that was the whole purpose of evolution! The only way any ‘religion’ can be compatible with evolution is if it is indistinguishable from atheism for all practical purposes in explaining life on earth.
Commentary: But other leading scientists have utterly rejected it.
Dennis Alexander is a scientist at the very heart of current work in genetics and evolution. His work was one of Britain’s most respected immunologists, stems directly from the human genome project. And yet, for him, there is nothing in what he knows that is incompatible with the belief in God.
Certainly not with a belief in a vague ‘god’, but that’s not the issue. It’s whether evolution is logically compatible with a belief in the true God of the Bible. It is not, because it postulates that God used death, ‘the last enemy’ to bring about a ‘very good’ creation (1 Corinthians 15:26, Genesis 1:31). See also Is evolution ‘anti-religion?’ It depends …, The god of an old earth, Some questions for theistic evolutionists (and ‘progressive creationists’) and The Fall: a cosmic catastrophe.
Denis Alexander (Immunologist, Babraham Institute): Well, I think Dawkins is absolutely right. If one’s looking at the origins of biological diversity then the theory of evolution is by far the best theory that we’ve got. And I mean all biologists, including myself, obviously operate within the framework of natural selection and our understanding of the current theory of evolution.
Plainly false, refuted by the existence of creationist Ph.D. biologists such as Australia’s leading molecular biologist Dr Ian Macreadie, Dr Raymond Jones who solved the Leucaena problem, which has earned millions of dollars for the Australian farming industries, Dr Walter Veith, chair of Zoology at the University of the Western Cape, as well as CMI botanists Dr David Catchpoole and Dr Don Batten, and molecular biologist Dr Pierre Jerlström.
Furthermore, a BioEssays special issue on evolution in 2000, which should put evolution in persective even among its believers:
‘While the great majority of biologists would probably agree with Theodosius Dobzhansky’s dictum that “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”, most can conduct their work quite happily without particular reference to evolutionary ideas”, the editor wrote. “Evolution would appear to be the indispensable unifying idea and, at the same time, a highly superflous one.” The annual programs of science conventions also tell the story. When the zoologists met in 1995 (and changed their name to the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology), just a few dozen of the 400 academic papers read were on evolution. The North American Paleontological Convention of 1996 featured 430 papers, but only a few included the word “evolution” in their titles. The 1998 AAS meeting organised 150 scientific sessions, but just 5 focused on evolution—as it relates to biotechnology, the classification of species, language, race and primate families.’5
Denis Alexander: But I think Dawkins and people like him take an unnecessary next step of trying to imply that it tells us something about the ultimate meaning of life for him, that’s a life really without meaning because it’s a life of atheism. So I don’t think that next step is really necessary, I just think that’s a bad way of doing philosophy, a bad way of doing science.
Commentary: So for Alexander, at the end of scientific explanation, there is still something else.
Dennis Alexander: We’re still left with the ultimate questions of whether it has any overall meaning, whether there is a god or not, whether we’re going anywhere, and I think those questions are simply not the kind of questions that science can answer.
Indeed not. The experimental method has produced amazing benefits to society, but there is no reason to believe that it can explain everything, especially in the realm of origins. The experimental method can’t even explain itself—there is no experiment that can prove the validity of the experimental method!
Richard Dawkins: It’s not always harmful to believe in the supernatural or, indeed, in anything false. One can make a case for believing falsehoods if they are comforting, if they’re consoling. But it is rather harmful if it lulls one into thinking that one has explained things that one hasn’t.
Rather, Dawkins doesn’t like the explanation because it would mean he is accountable to someone greater than himself.
Commentary: One side does not have more knowledge than the other, the differences begin when the facts run out.
And even before that—the different interpretation of the same facts via different belief systems!
Denis Alexander: I don’t bring God in to the equation, because I think we have to have something that makes it all work. I mean, I bring God in to the equation because I’m interested in what is the ultimate purpose and meaning of our existence here on earth.
Note that creationists also don’t bring God into the equation when it comes to operational science, but regard the laws as our description of His sustaining power. It’s a different matter when it comes to the origin of things, where God has revealed that He used supernatural means. The creationist fathers of modern science could keep these proper distinctions, but evolutionists (both theistic and antitheistic) refuse to grasp this simple point. See Naturalism, Origin and Operation Science.
Denis Alexander: And I think that Christian theism actually is a much more consistent starting point than atheism, because it’s consistent with the idea of a personal God who’s actually interested in ethics and morality, and human responses, and has brought us into being with that very thought in mind. And it so happens the way he’s chosen to bring us into being is by a very long process of evolution.
Alexander starts off right, but then spouts an ipse dixit that blatantly contradicts the words of Jesus in whom he professes to believe! See Jesus and the age of the world. And as explained before, antitheists can’t be repelled by this craven appeasement.
Richard Dawkins: The possibility of really understanding the world and life and the universe is such an immensely exciting one, that to be fobbed off with a cheap falsehood, a supernatural explanation that really doesn’t explain anything, maybe it’s harmless, maybe it gives you solace, but I think it actually is mentally degrading and that it teaches you to be satisfied with a non-explanation, when a real explanation is within our grasp.
Commentary: Neither side disputes evolution. What separates them is the question of whether or not there can be a God who intended evolution, and who stands behind it.
Denis Alexander: So here we have two models, we have the model of Christian theism, or we have the other model which says, well, the whole thing really means nothing ultimately.
Note that Alexander’s model has little in common with the true Christian theism of the Bible.
Commentary: So according to Alexander, God simply chose to use evolution. But if this is the case, it raises a serious problem, why would an all powerful and loving God use a process that is based on the death and suffering of the weakest? Understanding this would be the key to understanding why there is suffering at all in the creation of the so-called ‘God of Love’.
Exactly. Evolution is incompatible with true (biblical) Christianity.
Jocelyn Bell-Burnell (Astronomer, The Open University): There’s always been a problem for the Christian church. You know, we believe in a loving god and an all powerful god, a god who’s in control of the world. If that’s the case, how can there be suffering?
Commentary: Jocelyn Bell-Burnell is one of the world’s leading astronomers and a Quaker. For her, the question of suffering lies at the heart of religious belief.
Quakers often deny the authority of Scripture, replacing it with the authority of the ‘inner light’, which really can be reduced to the first letter …
Jocelyn Bell Burnell: Suffering has come quite close to me. I come from Northern Ireland originally, as you may recognise from the accent. There’s a situation there that is not going to heal rapidly. I have a child, only child, with an incurable disease, that’s not going to heal.
That is tragic. But while we point out that diseases in general are the result of the Fall, it doesn’t mean that an individual’s disease is the result of individual’s specific sin. Jesus said the same about a man born blind (John 9). For more on this see Terrorists and Death and Why is there Death & Suffering? booklet: Raises questions but provides framework for answers.
Jocelyn Bell Burnell: There are many, many situations I think in all our lives actually, where there are things that won’t heal. And the church comes up with some pretty convoluted answers, to be honest, which, as far as I’m concerned, just don’t make sense.
Of course not—they make no sense if we compromise with billions of years and evolution! But they make perfect sense under a biblical framework, where death and suffering are intruders, the result of man’s sin, not the way God created.
Commentary: And Bell-Burnell is not alone. The church itself has wrestled with this problem for centuries. Professor John Polkinghorne is both a theologian and a physicist at Cambridge.
John Polkinghorne (Physicist and Theologian University of Cambridge): Christian theology, anyway, has to steer a course between two unacceptable pictures of God. One is the God who loves everything, the world is just God’s puppet theatre, everything dances to God’s tune. It’s the whole thing, it’s the performance of a play that God wrote in eternity. That can’t be the creation of the God of love because there’s no independence, there’s no freedom in it. Equally, the God of love can’t be just an indifferent spectator who set the world spinning, sits back and sees what happens.
Polkinghorne sets up a false dilemma, because he’s rejected the biblical Christian view that God created everything ‘very good’ and the reason for suffering is Adam’s misuse of free choice. In my book Refuting Compromise, I’ve pointed out a more biblical solution:
No actual evil in the finished creation
When God created moral beings, there was no actual evil. In fact, evil is not a ‘thing’ in itself, even though it is real. Rather, evil is the privation of some good that something ought to have, as Augustine pointed out. Murder is a removal of a good human life. Adultery is a privation of a good marriage. Good is fundamental and can exist in itself; evil cannot exist in itself. It is always a parasite on good. For example, a wound cannot exist without a body, and the very idea of a wound presupposes the concept of a healthy body. Blindness in a human is a physical evil, because humans are supposed to see (but oysters are not, so blindness is not an evil for oysters). Also, evil actions are done to achieve things like wealth, power and sexual gratification, which the evildoer finds ‘good’ (meaning ‘pleasing’). Evil things are not done as ends in themselves, but good things are. Now, since evil is not a thing, God did not create evil [although He does create calamity as He has a right to do, and this is the correct understanding of Isaiah 45:7].
Power of Contrary Choice
But God created both Adam and Eve, as well as the angels, with the power of contrary choice. This means that they had the power to make a choice contrary to their own nature. Even God does not have this power, for He cannot sin and go against His perfectly holy nature (Habakkuk 1:13, 1 John 1:5).
The power of contrary choice was a good, with no actual evil, but it meant that there was the possibility of evil. But, evidently, God saw that a greater good would come from it, in that the result would be creatures who genuinely love God freely. Actually, real love must be free—if I programmed my computer to flash ‘I love you’ on the screen, it would hardly be genuine love. But Adam’s misuse of this good resulted in actual evil befalling him and the rest of the material creation, over which he had dominion (Genesis 1:28).
Many commentators regard Ezekiel 28:11–19 as referring to the fall of the being we now call Satan (Hebrew for ‘adversary’).6 Evidently, Satan had also misused his power of contrary choice before Adam’s Fall, because he could control the snake as the instrument of temptation (Revelation 12:9). One possible interpretation of Revelation 12:4 is that a third of the angels joined in the rebellion7—they would have become the demons referred to in Scripture. But the fall of Satan and the demons was clearly not during the ‘very good’ Creation Week; it must have been some time after that, but in time to be able to instigate the Fall of mankind.
Eve was deceived by the Serpent’s temptation, and in turn gave the forbidden fruit to Adam, who was not deceived, but still ate (1 Timothy 2:13–14).
As a result of his sin, Adam and his descendants acquired a sin nature (Romans 5:12 ff.), and lost the power of contrary choice. But in this case, it now meant that they could no longer go against their sin nature (Psalm 51:5, Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 7:15–25). So people today don’t get their sin natures by sinning; they sin because of their sin nature.
The potentiality of evil, but not the actuality, is also illustrated by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In the original creation, God knew evil in the same way as an oncologist knows about cancer—not by personal experience but by knowledge about it (in God’s case, by foreknowledge). But after Adam and Eve sinned, they knew evil in the same way as a cancer sufferer knows cancer—by sad personal experience.8
In the Eternal State, redeemed humanity will no longer have the potential for sin. So in this sense, the Eternal State, with the new creation of the new heavens and new earth, will be even better than Eden.
In summary, following Augustine :
Adam and Eve were created with the ability not to sin.
After the Fall, humans had no ability not to sin.
In the Eternal State, humans will have no ability to sin.
Jocelyn Bell Burnell: What thinking about suffering has actually led me to do, and I’m a scientist through and through, is to go back to those initial assumptions that God is loving, God is all powerful and in charge of the world, and say can those actually all be true, or is there something wrong with one of those assumptions.
Nothing is wrong with them. Only her faulty assumption that ‘a loving, all-powerful God would get rid of all evil.’ She has merely assumed this, not demonstrated it. But for God to get rid of all evil, he’d have to get rid of all of us. If he’d done as she suggests, neither of us would be here (Romans 3:23), and the skeptics wouldn’t be around to ask those questions! To put Burnell’s real unspoken premise in, she demands that an omnipotent God would get rid of all evil immediately. But a reasonable response is to say that God will indeed rid the world of evil, since He is too pure to tolerate evil for eternity. So the likes of Burnett are interrupting God in mid-sentence and whinging that He doesn’t make sense.
Another point is to answer that the premise should be extended to ‘a loving, all-powerful God would get rid of all evil immediately unless He had a good reason for allowing it.’ Since Burnell is not omniscient, she is in no position to say that no good reason exists.
Further, without biblical revelation, on what basis do ‘good’ and ‘evil’ have any meaning? If we’re just rearranged pond scum, evolved via the strong overpowering the weak, on what basis can we call Hitler evil, when he was just trying to apply evolution to Germany, as atheistic evolutionist Sir Arthur Keith said here?
Now I haven’t actually the guts to relax the picture of god being loving, I actually need a loving God,
Why would it matter what she ‘needs’? What matters is whether a belief is true. And because of her rejection of biblical truth, she has no basis for believing that her need is fulfilled in reality.
… but I said what happens if we drop the assumption that God’s running the world? And the problem of suffering, as perceived by the Christian church, then goes away.
At the grave expense of denying God’s sovereignty and reducing Him to a wimpy mini-god too powerless to do anything. And the problem of suffering hardly ‘goes away’ if the mini-god of her imagination can never do anything about it.
Commentary: So does this mean that God has simply abandoned us? No, say the theologians. God’s handover of power is, in fact, his greatest act of love, because it is the means by which he gives us free will.
Yet evolution is contrary to free will. The leading atheistic evolutionist William Provine of Cornell University said:
‘Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear ... There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.’9
Commentary: And support for this view comes from a surprising quarter, from scientists who are trying to create robots which can think for themselves.
Ron Chrisley (Philosopher of Artificial Intelligence University of Sussex): Traditional thinking, it goes back for centuries about the problem of evil, how can there be evil in a world that God created if God is good. The answer to that, many people have been given, is that well, God created us, but gave us freedom for us to choose, and if we choose evil then that’s a necessary by-product of us being free.
And none of this required evolution, as explained.
Ron Chrisley: Well, I think the same point comes up with artificial intelligence, is that if you really want the agent to be free, and to be autonomous and not just a computer programme that you’ve written, then you have to let go in a way similar to how God let go. So you have to let it either evolve for itself or learn for itself, somehow acquire its own mental take on the world, its own beliefs and desires, through its own experience of the world.
Note the equivocation in his use of ‘evolve’. He is using it to refer to the personal development of the individual, which is a totally different concept to evolution of the species. Perhaps he still believes in ‘ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny’ promulgated by forged drawings of Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919)—see Ernst Haeckel: Evangelist for Evolution and Apostle of Deceit. Because of this confusion, his argument for theistic evolution is worthless.
Andy Clark (Philosopher and Cognitive Scientist University of Sussex): It’s only when a Creator has kind of let go of their system that the system can count us having free will. The line there would be, you know, God couldn’t possibly have programmed us in detail, God had to use something a bit like evolution, because only that puts enough distance between god’s intentions and my intentions for my acts to actually turn out to be free. Artificial evolution then would be a way of putting the same distance between us and the behaviour of our machines.
Once more, complete nonsense. The biblical account shows that Adam was created with the power to accept or reject God. The main supporters of determinism are evolutionists—if we are the result of random mutations and natural selection, then our thought processes are determined by brain chemistry.
Commentary: Artificial intelligence scientists have found that step one in opening up that gap between Creator and created, is to let life evolve its own solutions.
Andy Clark: Artificial evolution has found solutions to problems that are pretty weird from our point of view. There’s someone at Sussex, Adrian Thompson, who works on evolving little chips, and after a period of artificial evolution he looked at some of these chips and found that there were bits of the circuitry that, as far as he could tell, weren’t doing anything. He couldn’t understand what they were doing. But change those bits of the circuitry, and the thing doesn’t work any more. So when the problems are even modestly complex, the solutions that artificial evolution throws up can turn out to be very different to the solutions that you would come up with if you sat down to solve the problem.
Genetic algorithms are interesting and have been used for a long time. Recently evolutionary propagandists have hijacked the concept and claimed it for their own ends. But there are huge differences between genetic algorithms and evolution by random mutation and natural selection—see Genetic algorithms—do they show that evolution works?
Commentary: And when one of these weird solutions involves learning for itself, then evolution is on its way to delivering the kind of free will we have.
Andy Clark: What you want to do really is use artificial evolution to get to something like the infant state, so you want to evolve systems that are ready to learn by moving around and interacting with the real world. So you evolve it first you set it off, you give it ten or fifteen years, back it comes, and then you can say, you know, how are you doing, are you intelligent yet. Probably say, yeah, I’m doing fine, I’ve just taken my ‘O’ Levels.
Denis Alexander: A lot of people see evolution and believing in god as somehow intention or incompatible, whereas my thinking has been coming round to the idea that God has to use evolution in order to create intelligent life.
The true God of the Bible is not as limited as Alexander’s. His ‘god’ was also evidently incapable of revealing what he actually did!
Commentary: Evolution has killed the all controlling god, but in his place a new and more subtle god is emerging.
Evolution may have killed a false idea of God popular in Darwin’s time, and still popular with today’s progressive creationists. That is, God created things as they are now, which entails that God created organisms that tore each other to pieces and deadly pathogens. But this is an unbiblical view, since the carnivorous and pathogenic behaviour is post-Fall—see Did God create carnivory? and Pathogens and Creation in the same article.
John Polkinghorne: God I think interacts with the world, but doesn’t over-rule it. God has, if you like—is conducting the improvised performance of the universe. So I think what is settled is much less determinative, and there is much more flexibility and freedom and surprise and openness in what’s going on.
Evidently Polkinghorne disbelieves Paul who said that death was ‘the last enemy’, and instead thinks that God would use this process to create things.
Jocelyn Bell Burnell: I find I’m still somewhat surprised that I will so cheerfully say God is not in control of the world, and wait for a thunderbolt or the sky to fall in, and it doesn’t happen.
Her ‘god’ is no different from the pagan idols made of wood and stone that Isaiah mocked for their impotence (Isaiah 44).
Commentary: So far from being an anathema to God, evolution, it turns out, is the perfect tool for God to create thinking, learning, free will to creatures. Evolution is the mechanism that can let go of its creations, because just as music is more than the notes, so we are more than our genes.
Evolution may not be anathema to mini-gods conjured up by theologians, but it is anathema to the true God of the Bible.
What this DNA knows how to do is to make the fetus, the baby. The baby then grows and looks around, and talks and understands and discusses and argues, and thinks, and does all the things that human beings do, and that process comes on top of the genes. And so I think it’s quite right to think of the mind as being something above and beyond the genes.
True. And this is a problem for materialists.
Commentary: Once evolution was seen as an attack on God,
That was why it was invented, and why humanist/skeptics/atheists love it so much that they refuse to tolerate dissent.
Commentary: … now people can accept that man, in all his subtlety, has evolved from beast, and still believe in God.
But one unanswered question is this, was there some time when human beings acquired qualities that set them apart from other creatures? Was there a decisive moment when man first felt the need for God?
Unexpectedly, it is archaeology that may offer a clue. Evidence of a specific moment when human creativity exploded. And interestingly, that explosion occurred not at the moment when the modern human brain evolved, but 50,000 years later.
Steven Mithen (Archaeologist, University of Reading): This distinction between the emergence of a species, Homo sapiens, at about 130,000 years ago, and the major growth in our culture elaboration, that doesn’t really occur until after 70,000 years ago, has worried archaeologists for quite some time, but how do you bring those two together.
Commentary: What was the spark that finally set the human mind and imagination alight? Was that when god gave us a soul?
Archaeologist, Steven Mithen is an atheist, but what fascinates him is that all the physical evidence shows that a sense of god was central to this extraordinary moment.
He is not only an atheist, but atheism is the presupposition underlying his research, or rather, underlying the gross extrapolations from his research. He wrote a book trying to explain the origin of the mind.10 He first admitted:
‘The human mind is intangible, an abstraction. In spite of more than a century of systematic study by psychologists and philosophers, it eludes definition and adequate description, let alone explanation.’11
Then was commendably open about his bias right at the start:
‘Creationists believe that the mind sprang suddenly into existence fully formed. In their view it is a product of divine creation. They are wrong: the mind has a long evolutionary history and can be explained without recourse to supernatural powers. …
‘I will be searching for—and will find—the cognitive foundations of art, religion and science. By exposing these foundations it will become clear how we share common roots with other species—even though the mind of our closest living relative, the chimpanzee, is indeed so fundamentally different from our own. I will thus provide the hard evidence to reject the creationist claim that the mind is a product of supernatural intervention.’12
Towards the end, Mithen bluffs and blusters that he has proven what he has set out to prove—a more realistic demonstration of actual evolutionary ‘science’ than the common myth that they dispassionately follow the evidence to where it leads:
‘The human mind is a product of evolution, not supernatural creation. I have laid bare the evidence. I have specified the “whats”, the “whens” and the “whys” for the evolution for the mind.’
Except that he merely analyzed the bones of our alleged ancestors, and claimed, in effect, to be able to read their minds. He deduced how even the hypothetical missing link thought. Finally, although not of course being able to analyze their minds, he was able to supposedly conclude that the mind was not created! In reality, this was his premise not his conclusion.
Steven Mithen: Well, the artistic activity of some of the first modern humans is the best example, for instance, of our best evidence of our early religious beliefs, and when they come, they come with an immense impact.
The first representation art is in South West Europe, and these are of animals, and sometimes humans, and sometimes half-animal or half-human beings. Now the exact meaning of those paintings are lost to us, but I think there’s no doubt that these paintings are about a mythical world, and particularly these half-human, half animal beings are spiritual beings, entities that don’t live in the real world, but are as real in those people’s minds as the animals, the reindeer and the bison that they hunt.
We don’t know what exactly’s going on, but clearly there is something that we’d describe as ritual and as belief and as ideology, and something that is quite separate from, if you like, the real material world in those people’s lives.
This doesn’t seem to be something that emerges when people have time on their hands. It’s during the last Ice-Ages, when people were living really difficult lives in Europe that they invested the greatest amount of time in their artistic activity and their religious activity.
All this makes perfect sense if people were created intelligent and didn’t evolve this way. The Ice Age people were descendants of people who built an ocean-liner–sized vessel. It’s far more of a problem for progressive creationists, because they must postulate that many of these marks of intelligence were made by soul-less non-human hominids. See Ethiopian ‘earliest humans’ find: A severe blow to the beliefs of Hugh Ross and similar ‘progressive creationist’ compromise views.
Commentary: The archaeological record suggests that asking these questions about the ultimate meaning of life was an essential ingredient in our journey over the threshold from animal to human.
Steven Mithen: I think it is really about this questioning, this asking, this desire for meaning, this desperate urge to find meaning. It’s in almost every single domain of human existence. A big cultural explosion. It’s like a whole whoosh in human culture, like a moment of take-off.
It’s interesting that even secular archeologists believe that cities seemed to spring up first in Mesopotamia, then shortly afterwards in widely separated areas, such as Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Indus and Yellow River Valleys. This makes sense if they were founded by people who separated after Babel, but who carried much knowledge with them.
Commentary: Was that moment of takeoff just another evolutionary step, or a moment of God-given inspiration? Either way, the evidence shows it was an exceptional turning point in our existence.
Rather, it shows that humans have always been humans.
Steven Mithen: We’ve got the first explorations of art happening, the first religious explorations happening then, and the first scientific explorations appearing all at the same time. And I think it is really about this questioning, this asking, this desire for meaning, this desperate urge to find meaning. Maybe with things that don’t affect heavily meaning, you know, they just happen, you know, storms happened, people died. I think if you’re an atheist there isn’t fundamental meaning in those, they’re just things that happen in the world. But sometime after 70,000 years ago, this need to explain then pervades every single aspect of human existence.
Commentary: And this is a transformation we all still go through in our own lives, as we grow and realise how little we understand.
Steven Mithen: As we’re growing up we go through an immense period of questioning, and those questions we ask as—when we’re children or young adolescents are some of the most intense, the most important, and it’s nice to think of that as a mirror of that human experience as a species, as we become questioning beings.
But Mithen and his ilk refuse to question the dogma of materialism.
Commentary: The sense of wonder our ancestors must have felt is drowned these days in the noise of our material advancement. But it hasn’t disappeared. This man was a German schoolboy brought up on science, heedless of religions, when his life suddenly changed.
True; the old saying is, ‘there are no atheists in foxholes.’
Jürgen Moltmann (Theologian, University of Tübingen): When I was 16 years old, I wanted to study mathematics and physics. Then I was drafted, together with the whole class, to the anti-aircraft batteries in Hamburg. We were the last generation who had to die so the murderers in the concentration camps could go on with their terrible work. It was the year ’43.
Commentary: At 16, Jürgen Moltmann was a confirmed atheist from a long line of atheists. Today, he is considered one of the greatest living theologians.
Jürgen Moltmann: Then came the last week of July, in ’43, and I think the Royal Air Force came with more than 1,000 bombers every night for one week. All living beings were burnt, and all houses destroyed—a fire storm. Our anti-aircraft battery was just in the middle of it. It’s a storm going through the streets, which takes everything down. You cannot stand the storm, it’s so intensive. And these flames are taking everything in. You can keep to a tree, but it tears you away from the tree into the fire. And the bomb, who tore a friend of mine standing next to me into pieces, spared me. It was a kind of a miracle. I don’t know why. At least this was a night when I first in my life cried out, ‘Where is God?’ I was missing somebody or something.
But Moltmann didn’t go far enough—instead of believing what God has revealed, he remade Him in his own image.
Steven Mithen: This must have been one of the great transformation periods of our past, when it’s the first time that human communities in a big way were asking these questions about the universe, effectively, which had simply never been asked before.
Jürgen Moltmann: I was crying out, ‘God, where are you?’ That God was not there, and there was nothing. And if you feel the absence of God, or the absent presence of God, you also feel the dark night of your soul, because all of a sudden you have no orientation any more, and you don’t know why you are alive. And then your senses are closing. You listen to nothing, you see nothing, you taste nothing. You just close yourself in.
Steven Mithen: The activity of religion really exploded pretty rapidly in human society. And it’s interesting to speculate about that sudden fear. I think it’s a fear of realising your lack of understanding. Terrifying that you suddenly think, hey, I don’t actually understand any of that, and we need to know that.
Rather, humans have always retained some knowledge of God. They all come from people who had direct encounters with Him, and have the evidence of creation and conscience. But much religious activity that leaves traces, e.g. idols, is a result of distortion of this knowledge of the true God. Archaeological evidence suggests that mankind was originally monotheistic, indicating that only later did mankind degenerate into idolatrous pantheism.13
Commentary: At this moment of take-off, the human mind was liberated from the mute pre-occupations of survival. Instead of a brain which registered warmth, pain or hunger, there was a mind, able to imagine and inquire. Consciousness, in a sense of merely being alive, had developed into something capable of wonder. Was this just an accident of evolution or design?
Evolution doesn’t explain why consciousness or religion evolved—where did the new information come from that made such an advanced brain, when it is not needed for survival?
John Polkinghorne: It seems to me that the most astonishing thing that we know about that’s happened in the whole history of the universe, is the coming to be of self consciousness here on earth. In human beings, the universe became aware of itself, which is a very unexpected, I think, and I think significant development.
Sounds almost pantheistic (everything is God).
Denis Alexander: Our own existence here on planet earth is intimately connected with all the events that have been going on in the cosmos in the very, very early micro-seconds after the Big Bang, in a sense, sort of already was setting the stage for the emergence of life so many billions of years later. There’s something very odd going on here, there’s something very special about this universe that can bring conscious beings in to existence. And to simply say in an ultimate sense that is a chance or random process, it doesn’t look like it, it doesn’t look like it. It looks rather organised actually. It looks like something is going on here.
Yet evolution is all about randomness being selected for survival value.
John Polkinghorne: The universe, immediately following the Big Bang, was pregnant with life, had all the right circumstances for life from the beginning. It isn’t an accident it’s come about. There are many, of course, accidental things about the particular way it’s gone about, and I’m not saying that the universe was pregnant with human beings, with five fingered animals and things of that nature, but that some form of highly complex, highly developed consciousness sustaining life was to be a possibility in its unfolding history was there, in my view, from the start.
Of course, if Polkinghorne understood simple chemistry, he would realize that the conditions of this universe would prevent life from evolving from non-living chemicals via chemical evolution. See Origin of Life Questions and Answers.
Commentary: At its most basic level, our universe is simple and deterministic. But scientists realise they still have to explain how, through evolution, the mere bumping of molecules has created a spiritual dimension. The answer, they think, is that the universe has built itself level by level, and that each one, whether atoms or consciousness, is more than the sum of its parts.
This is certainly pantheism or at least panentheism (everything is in God), and has nothing to do with Christian theism. See Templeton Prize goes to panentheistic Darwinist for an example of a leading theistic evolutionist who holds this heresy.
Steven Mithen: In all sorts of areas of science today, we recognise that there are emergent phenomena, so to talk of the great elaboration of culture at the moment of take-off and emergent, is a perfectly scientific way to approach this. What’s very encouraging is that this is clearly now a theme that scientists are now able to have a better stab at explaining, of how you can get more out of individual components than those would simply add up to be. That seems to fit very well on to what happened in the evolution of the human mind, and understanding how we end up as being a being which is more than the small individual parts of evolutionary past.
A creationist would interpret the evidence as ‘a human being is more than the small individual parts designed by our creator.’
Commentary: So at the beginning of the 21st Century, a clearer picture is emerging of creation and the human condition. No longer slave either to an omnipotent god, or remorseless gene, but pregnant with possibility and free to create its own open future. Do believers then, have to cling to a watered down version of the old god? Or do they have a better understanding of their maker?
Jürgen Moltmann: God is no longer omnipotent, that is no longer omniscient,
I’d rather believe Jesus:
Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ Matthew 19:26
Jürgen Moltmann: … but he is full of expectation, waiting for us. So it’s better to speak about a waiting God, than to speak about an all powerful king in heaven.
It’s better to speak of God as He reveals Himself to us, and who took upon human nature in Christ, who was indeed an all-powerful king.
Jürgen Moltmann: A good example for this is, you see, a parable of the Prodigal Son, which is, in reality, the parable of the Waiting Father. Because this is a miracle. The son acquitted everything, took his heritage away, and so the father was no longer the father, the son no longer the son, but the father was still waiting for the son. And I think this is a powerful image of God.
So on what basis does Moltmann believe in this parable and not other clear statements from Jesus? Jesus did not leave the option of picking and choosing what to accept from Him.
And trust a liberal to imagine teachings in a parable where none were intended. In parables, there is one main teaching point—other aspects of the parable are necessary for the storyline, but are not intended to be parables. The context of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 was the rejoicing in Heaven when even one sinner repents. The rejoicing was parabolized in a shepherd leaving his flock to hunt high and low for one missing sheep, a woman searching top to bottom for a missing point, and this father awaiting his lost son. In none of these was there any intent to parallel God’s attributes with the finitude of the shepherd or woman, so why should it be so with the waiting father?
Jürgen Moltmann: I think we see the presence of God in the universe, and also in human life more as a presence of his patience, not his intervening power. Because if I have patience with another person, I’m giving that person time. We can feel this if we have children. When they are just born we do everything for them. We are omnipotent, that they are completely dependent on us, but then when they grow up you must take back your influence on them to give them freedom.
Commentary: The gift of science to religion has been to offer an answer to the problem of suffering. Instead of an all-controlling and wilful God, it offers a God of patience, hope and freedom,
Where is the hope if this ‘god’ is powerless to intervene? The hope of Christianity is that because of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sin, He has pronounced believers as righteous (Romans 4:3, Genesis 15:6). Therefore He will one day lift the curse, and thus death and suffering will be no more (Revelation 22:3, 21:4). All this depends on a real historical sin resulting in God’s curse that brought death and suffering into the world.
Commentary: … and the gift of religion to science is to have provided the well spring of inquiry.
Indeed so. But not the way this series claims. This series completely ignored the creationist basis for the rise of modern science.
Steven Mithen: I don’t think for a moment you could have the exploration of science in the world without either those same people or other people exploring the world through religious ideas. I think they’ve got to go hand in hand with each other. We would be in error today to say science should have priority over religious experience, or the other way around, because I think the fact that they all start together tells us that they have a common route. We can’t ever lose one. They come as a package, if you like, and the package is this peculiar human mind we’ve got, and this need to explain and find meaning.
But Mithen is an atheist who explicitly rejects God as an explanation for the mind! It is hardly the first time that atheists are disingenuous about their true agenda when trying to get compromising churchians on side with rejecting God’s written Word, the Bible. See Stephen Jay Gould and NOMA.
References and notes
- Cited in: Where Darwin Meets the Bible, p. 23—by anti-creationist Larry Witham, Oxford University Press, 2002. See review by Jerry Bergman, TJ 17(3):22–24, 2003. Return to text.
- Birkhead, T., ‘Strictly for the birds’, review of The Mating Mind by Geoffrey Miller, New Scientist pp. 48–49, 13 May 2000. Return to text.
- Tattersall, I., ‘Whatever turns you on’, review of The Mating Mind by Geoffrey Miller, New York Times Book Review, 11 June 2000. Return to text.
- Moreland, J.P., Christianity and the Nature of Science: A Philosophical Investigation, Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 226, 1989. Return to text.
- Cited in Witham, Ref. 1, p. 43. Return to text.
- MacArthur, J., The Battle for the Beginning, W Publishing Group, pp. 199–204, 2001. Return to text.
- MacArthur, Ref. 6, p. 203. Return to text.
- MacArthur, Ref. 6, p. 211. Return to text.
- Cited in: Origins Research 16(1/2), p.9, 1994. Return to text.
- Mithen, S., The Prehistory of the Mind: A Search for the Origins of Art, Religion and Science, Thames and Hudson, London, 1996. Return to text.
- Mithen, Ref. 10, p. 9. Return to text.
- Mithen, Ref. 10, pp. 10, 16. Return to text.
- Schmidt, W., The Origin and Growth of Religion, Cooper Square, New York, 1971. Return to text.