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The Skeptics and their ‘Churchian’ Allies

Why is evolution so popular today? What is the attraction of people wanting to believe that things made themselves, so that we are basically self-rearranged pond-scum? Why does the overwhelming evidence for design not convince people?

by Jonathan Sarfati

First published in:
Prayer News (Australia) pp. 1–2
November 1998

The Bible is clear that people are willingly ignorant of the reality of God, because they prefer to go their own way (Romans 1:18–20). But according to the atheist Richard Dawkins, it was impossible to be an ‘intellectually fulfilled atheist’ until they had an alternative to creation to explain the wonders of life—an alternative which Darwin supposedly provided. As most historians agree, Darwin’s main aim was to explain the world without God.1

Skeptics and humanists

Humanism is a religious faith that excludes God. The first two tenets of the Humanist Manifesto II, signed by many prominent evolutionists, are:

  1. Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created.
  2. Humanism believes that Man is a part of nature and has emerged as a result of a continuous process.

(See The Religion of Humanism.)

One leading humanist philosopher, Paul Kurtz, founded the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), also known as the Skeptics. There are now many Skeptics organizations around the world, sharing both the American spelling and the aims. Naturally, both humanists and skeptics are stridently opposed to creationist organizations, because demolishing evolution undermines the pseudo-intellectual basis for their world view.

It should surprise no one that the Skeptics’ membership lists read like a ‘Who’s Who’ of atheists and humanists. The original US organisation even jointly owns its headquarters, the Center for Inquiry, at Amherst, NY, with the Council for Secular Humanism.

However, the leaders of the Australian Skeptics realize that rank atheism would be repugnant to most Australians, so profess that the organisation is ‘religiously neutral’ and not anti-God or anti-Christian, and even boast about ‘Christians’ in their membership list.2

Nevertheless, the Australian Skeptics have been at the forefront of promoting atheistic books and speakers, and publishing anti-Christian articles in their journal. The bottom line is, they are sceptical of paranormal claims, and if creation by God and the Resurrection of Christ are not paranormal, I don’t know what to call them!3

It’s vital to realise that when Skeptics claim they are not anti-Christian, what they really mean is, as long as Christians don’t claim their belief has something to do with the real world. Faith is not a problem, as long as the faithful don’t claim it’s supported by any hard evidence. See How Religiously Neutral are the Anti-Creationist Organisations?

The Skeptics’ allies—theistic evolutionists

One would think that the atheistic bias behind evolutionary thinking would alert Christians of the need to oppose it. But, sadly, large sections of the Church have tried to reconcile Christianity and evolution.

Let’s ask: what usually happens when the plain meaning of the Bible, the written Word of the all-knowing and truthful God who was there, disagrees with the theories of some fallible scientists who weren’t there (cf. Job 38:4) and who are usually strongly anti-Christian?4 It is always Scripture that is ‘re-interpreted’ to fit in with man’s wisdom. But God’s word never changes, while it is hard to find a five-year-old science textbook that is not outdated!

Any reinterpretation of Genesis that departs from the plain meaning has dire consequences for the Gospel. The apostle Paul points out that the reason Christ came to die was the sin of the first man, Adam, which brought death into the world. 1 Cor. 15:21–22 contrasts the historical Christ, who was physically resurrected from the dead, with the historical Adam, who brought physical (as well as spiritual) death. The whole meaning of redemption presupposes a historical Fall of a historical Adam!

All (mis-)interpretations of Genesis which deny its plain meaning, e.g. day-age, gap theory, theistic evolution, must assert that death, ‘the last enemy’ (1 Cor. 15:26) was a part of the ‘very good’ creation (Gen. 1:31).5

Doubting Genesis has, in many cases, led to doubt of the rest of the Scripture. Alternatively, one’s Christian faith is put in a box labelled ‘Christianity—subjective, personal, existential: open only during church service’; the rest of the week one opens the box labelled ‘Evolution—scientific, objective: close before entering church’.

It is no accident that churches which start rejecting Genesis generally move on to rejecting other vital doctrines. No wonder that many churches that started by rejecting biblical authority in ‘science’ areas now have ministers who actually reject the Resurrection and Virginal Conception of Christ, and even have floats in the Gay Mardi Gras! It is a sad fact that many formerly evangelical theological seminaries have become totally liberal. And the slide has nearly always commenced by those in charge doubting the plain teachings of the first book of the Bible.

(See also Some questions for theistic evolutionists (and ‘progressive creationists’).)

ISCAST

A vocal theistic evolutionary organisation in Australia is ISCAST (Institute for the Study of Christianity in an Age of Science and Technology). They spend much time attacking biblical creationism and creationists. In fact, one gets the feeling that they have more in common with Skeptics than with Christians who disagree with them. Amazingly, they claimed that the Skeptics are an ‘organisation neutral on religion’,6 which as shown above is either incredibly naïve or simply dishonest.

A few years ago, Ian Plimer, a Skeptic and Australian Humanist of the Year (1995) wrote a book called Telling Lies for God. This made some serious, unsubstantiated and later disproven charges (see The Ian Plimer Files) against Bible-believing Christians, including Creation Ministries International (then the Creation Science Foundation Ltd.). It also lampooned the Bible. However, ISCAST’s review of this book actually appeared to endorse this atheist’s comments as follows: ‘He presents a strong case for scientific fraud and that creationists use methods that are dishonest and manipulative’ and ‘needs to be read’ and ‘an understandable response from the scientific community’.7

ISCAST is thus supporting vicious attacks against the integrity of a Bible-believing organisation. These attacks had previously, to ISCAST’s own knowledge, been shown (by an independent committee of enquiry with impeccable Christian credentials led by Clarrie Briese) to be false. This was reported in the May 1995 issue of our Prayer News. See also the CMI response to Plimer’s charges against them.

In the same review, ISCAST claimed that Plimer ‘does not take an anti-Christian stand’. But Plimer’s book attacks biblical inerrancy and belief in life after death, which would seem to be blatantly anti-Christian. Also, as documented on our website, Plimer makes some crass blunders in science (see Plimer’s Bloopers). Yet ISCAST (and the Skeptics), despite a professed high regard for science, overlooked them.

ISCAST’s personnel includes one Dr Ken Smith, who is a Fellow and Committee member of ISCAST. Smith also has the dubious honour of being joint Skeptic of the Year in 1986 for a book he co-edited that attacked biblical creation. It even had a chapter denigrating biblical inerrancy and was full of mocking cartoons attacking biblical Christians. Smith in his public writings has personally endorsed the ardent atheists Dawkins and Plimer.

I suggest that a true Christian should not be ‘unequally yoked’ with an anti-Christian organisation like the Skeptics in any way, let alone as joint Skeptic of the Year. It seems reasonable to be sceptical of ISCAST’s claim to hold a ‘high view of Scripture’ if they have a leading Skeptic in such a high position.

Denial of biblical inerrancy

One of the most vocal ISCAST spokesmen is Prof. Allan Day. He claims that the Bible’s authors were limited by the primitive science of their day, so they believed wrong ideas like a primitive flat earth cosmology.8 Day also claims that the spherical world was a big problem for the church fathers.8 This charge is completely false as shown by the historian J.B. Russell. He documented that nearly all Christian scholars who have ever discussed the earth’s shape have assented to its roundness.9 And the Bible teaches that the earth is round, not flat.10

Day’s comments, regrettably, are a blatant denial of biblical inerrancy—a strange way of holding ‘a high view of biblical authority’, as he claims ISCAST does. Biblical inerrancy was taught by Christ (John 10:35) and His apostle Paul (2 Tim. 3:15–17). Denying inerrancy in areas which are testable gives us no reason or confidence to trust Scripture in untestable areas, e.g. life after death. It also leaves us vulnerable to claims by the ‘gay Christian’ lobby that the Bible’s authors taught a primitive homophobic view of sexuality, which modern science has supposedly shown to be false. Already, there are even bishops who think adultery is ‘in the genes’, programmed by evolution.

Also, the keynote speaker at the ISCAST-sponsored COSAC 1997 (Conference on Science and Christianity) was Robert Russell, who endorses the heretical doctrine of panentheism.11 This doctrine says that the universe is a part of God, who evolves as the universe evolves.

ISCAST leader thinks Christ was wrong

When confronted with the fact that Christ accepted the plain meaning of Genesis, Day claimed that Christ was limited by His time, and that we now know better thanks to ‘science’. It’s amazing that an organisation whose spokesman opposes what Christ taught has been able to gain the confidence of reputable evangelical organizations (see box).

Where does it end? After all, Jesus told Nicodemus (John 3:12): ‘I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?’ If Jesus was wrong about earthly things (like a recent creation12 and a global flood13), was He also wrong about a heavenly thing like John 3:16, only four verses later? If not, why not? Scripture becomes a restaurant menu, where we choose only the parts that suit us, while we slide down to total unbelief. Many atheists testify that their rejection of the Bible and Christianity started with compromises on Genesis.

Effect on Christians

The major purpose of ISCAST seems to be to promote the teaching of ‘theistic evolution’. We have had many letters from people who were confused by such teaching. But they were grateful to Creation Ministries International for helping them restore their foundations and confidence in Scripture, and helping them see that Christianity is a faith which fits the facts.

Conclusion

In making this stand, Creation Ministries International is not claiming that theistic evolutionists cannot be Christians, nor denying their right to be heard. However, we think it is our sombre responsibility to make fellow Christians aware of the full extent and implications of some of the beliefs held by leading ISCASTians.

The more that real belief in Genesis (the book containing the doctrinal foundations of creation, sin, death and redemption) is undermined, the worse for Christianity overall.

ISCAST’s penetration of Australian evangelicalism

  • Moore College (an evangelical Anglican college in Sydney): this was the venue for last year’s ISCAST-sponsored conference called COSAC. Although it was not a Moore College conference, Dr Peter Jensen, the Principal of Moore and a theistic evolutionist, was one of the speakers.
  • Ridley College (Anglican theological college at Parkville, Victoria): has had many lectures by ISCASTians. It was the venue of an ISCAST conference in Oct. 1998 held in conjunction with the Victorian Association of Religious Education, the Council for Christian Education in Schools, the Teachers Christian Fellowship, and Scripture Union.14
  • Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students: their magazine Salt (Spring 1998) published an article by leading ISCASTian Dr Jonathan Clarke denying the historicity of Genesis. Clarke has also favourably reviewed the anti-Christian book Contact by the late fanatical atheist Carl Sagan, amazingly claiming that Sagan was ‘surely not far from the Kingdom of God’.15
  • Christian Medical and Dental Fellowship, Australia: a whole issue of their Luke’s Journal (Vol. 2, No. 3, Sept. 1997), was devoted to pushing the ISCAST theistic evolutionary line, including an editorial by leading ISCASTian Dr Alan Gijsbers.

Return to text.

Related Articles

References

  1. See C. Wieland, ‘Darwin’s real message: have you missed it?Creation 14(4):16–19, September–November 1992. For scientific refutations of Dawkins’ works, see:
  2. Barry Williams, Executive Officer of Australian Skeptics, letter in New Life 60(38):12, 19 March 1998. Return to text
  3. All this was pointed out in CMI’s refutation of Williams’ letter, New Life 60(41):4–5, 9 April 1998. Return to text
  4. Don Batten, ‘A Who’s Who of evolutionists’, Creation 20(1):32, December 1997–February 1998 (see online version) Return to text
  5. Because they all accept the ‘millions of years’ scenario—this puts the fossil record, with all its evidence of death, suffering and disease, before Adam’s sin. Return to text
  6. ISCAST Bulletin 23, March 1998.Return to text
  7. VISCAST News, May 1997, p. 4 (VISCAST is just the Victorian branch of ISCAST).Return to text
  8. A.J. Day, in the ISCAST-sponsored COSAC workshop papers, p. 4. Return to text
  9. Jeffrey Burton Russell, Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus & Modern Historians (Praeger, 1991). Prof. Russell can find only five obscure writers in the first 1500 years of the Christian era who denied that the earth was a globe. But he documents a large number of writers, including Thomas Aquinas, who affirmed the earth’s sphericity. See also Creation 14(4):21, 16(2):48–9 (see online version). Return to text
  10. Isaiah 40:22 refers to ‘the circle of the earth’, or in the Italian translation globo. The Hebrew is khug = sphericity or roundness. Even if the translation ‘circle’ is adhered to, think about Neil Armstrong in space—to him, the spherical earth would have appeared circular regardless of which direction he viewed it from. Also Jesus Christ’s prophecy about His second coming in Luke 17:34–36 implies that He knew about a round earth. He stated that different people on earth would experience night, morning and midday at the same time. This is possible because the spheroidal earth is rotating on its axis, which allows the sun to shine on different areas at different times. But it would be an inconceivable prophecy if Christ believed in a flat earth. Return to text
  11. ISCAST Bulletin 22:4, 1997. Return to text
  12. Jesus, when teaching about marriage and divorce, said: ‘But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female’ (Mark 10:6). This makes sense if Adam and Eve were created on Day 6 of Creation Week, about 4000 years before He spoke. But it is diametrically opposed to the evolutionary/long age belief that mankind appeared after 4.5 billion years of earth history, almost as an afterthought. Return to text
  13. In Luke 17:26–27, Jesus treats the Flood and Ark as historical events. Return to text
  14. New Life 61(14):7, 10 Sept. 1998. Return to text
  15. ISCAST Bulletin 23:6, 1998. Return to text

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