Butterfly tactics and the spiritual battle
The need for agility, wisdom and focus
Originally published in a CMI newsletter, May 2010
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
A world-famous boxer, not known for his humility,1 attributed much of his success in the ring to being able to “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”.2 (Such ‘animal similes’ are not unknown in Scripture, too—e.g. Jesus’ statement to his disciples, above.) The ‘butterfly’ part referred to his nimble-footed agility. This enabled him to ‘shift fronts’ at will, back and forth, wisely adapting his strategy to any shift in his opponent’s tactics while staying focused on the main objective. Armies in wartime can also use such ‘butterfly tactics’, as they may have to deal, in rapid succession, with attacks on one flank, then another—even several at once, including diversions from the ‘main game’.
‘Butterfly tactics’ came to mind recently when pondering how quickly the strategic landscape changes in this battle for the truth and authority of the Bible (which is ultimately for the souls of men and women). Indeed, we need to be as ‘wise as serpents’ in responding quickly to these multiple and changing battlefronts, while not getting distracted from our main focus—arming and equipping the church.
On the one flank …
One minute, it’s the increasingly confident outspoken atheists that command the attention of the public and put Christians, and Christian culture, on the back foot. In Australia this last March, there was a Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne, with various of their ‘superstars’ including Dr Richard Dawkins. Dawkins is renowned for choosing ‘soft targets’ as sparring partners. He and the other presenters declined an invitation to publicly debate CMI scientists while ‘down under’. Their refusal to pit the best that global atheism can offer against leading creationists caused great consternation on the web, and CMI offices received a lot of venomous email—for merely daring to ask their leading lights for an open debate.
A fawning secular media gave Dawkins huge opportunities to spread his anti-creation, anti-Bible, anti-God message. Sometimes this involved formal confrontations with professing Christians. Many supporters told us of their dismay at the highly ineffectual way in which such well-meaning ‘Dawkins opponents’ were cut to pieces by his rapier-sharp attacks. But this is not surprising, unfortunately; by abandoning the true Genesis history of the world and leaving the scientific arena to the secularists, the church in general has effectively disconnected the Bible from the real world. Having sawn off the branch which was supporting them, such would-be defenders are left with nothing much more than their ‘feelings’ vs Dawkins’ ‘facts’. This then allows him to ‘move in for the kill’ with the seeming authority of ‘science’, to undermine Christian teaching on sin, salvation and everything else.
On the same weekend as Dawkins et al. were in Melbourne for their convention, The Rise of Atheism, CMI responded with a 3-speaker seminar in the same city attended by some 500 people. Titled Countering the Rise of Atheism: the evidence for creation (see Countering atheism), the event was also the official launch of the new book by CMI’s Dr Jonathan Sarfati. This comprehensively refutes Dawkins on evolution/millions of years—based on the scientific evidence (see The Greatest Hoax on Earth?). People across the world were hugely encouraged to hear of this tremendous ammunition in resisting the inroads of the ‘new atheists’. At the time of writing we have just received the first feedback on Jonathan’s book. Lyle L. wrote (emphases in original):
“In fact, I couldn’t put the jolly thing down, it was FANTASTIC. Of course, I knew I was in for a treat, having read RE [Refuting Evolution] 1&2 and Refuting Compromise and By Design. But it’s just so WONDERFUL to see that Dawkins is rebutted so comprehensively in this book—CONGRATULATIONS+++ and a huge thank you to everyone at CMI who put in the big effort to get this book out so quickly. I can’t tell you how much of an encouragement this is to me”.
From CMI’s Facebook fan page Pauline H. wrote:
“Keep up the fantastic work, keeping us informed with the vast array of scientific evidence you offer. So glad to have you as courageous spokespeople out there, who can address the ‘big guns!’ with courtesy, clarity and intellectual rigour, armed with God’s word and empowered by His spirit. Praying for you, for protection, continued courage, and to maintain your position in God’s strength.”
But then …
Before we even had the opportunity for complacency, another front opened up. We publicised one more instance of a growing global opposition by governments to the teaching of creation even in Christian schools. It was a sharp reminder of how this cultural retreat from the Bible’s truth is starting to affect our long-taken-for-granted western freedom of belief.
While that issue was still raging, feedback from our speakers in several nations indicated that the global atheist thrust is only one component of a much bigger, multi-headed hydra3 of spiritual opposition. It is staggering to see the many people in the once-Christian West who are diverted from the glorious Gospel—not by joining the ranks of frank atheists, but by all manner of counterfeit ‘spiritual’ messages. These are invariably blends of evolutionary ‘science’ mixed with differing religious views4 (including the ‘new’ evolution-based alien/UFO beliefs).5 Of course, it all comes back to the ‘Romans 1’ urge to reject the Bible and its miracle-working Genesis Creator—who is also Saviour, Lord and Judge.
Evolutionary unbelief: not just outright atheism
Anyone bold enough to publicly challenge the way the world is being ‘lulled’ by untruth about its history is a magnet for all manner of attack. One young man (who later identified himself as a ‘Zoroastrian’ and ‘former Christian’) spent much time and energy challenging one of our scientist/speakers in public with extremely well-informed and complex questions on science. He clearly wanted to see evolution triumph. When that failed, he applied the ‘butterfly tactic’ in reverse—nimbly moving to a massive onslaught on the credibility of the Bible text itself. This was no ordinary confrontation; his passion to undermine the credibility of the Word of God—in the name of this ancient occultic ‘mystery religion’—was accompanied by an almost preternatural ability to quote large slabs of Scripture with ease. It reminded us of the spiritual dimension that surrounds us when we go out ‘in the field’—we are not contending with mere flesh and blood.
Reaching students—via students
In seeking to apply ‘butterfly tactics’ in dealing with a complex ‘enemy strategy’, one front stands out as especially strategic—schools and universities. The main way our message gets into these is via equipping believers in churches, motivating them to use resources, and some then reach these places. Some assume science students will be the ones most resistant to our message. However, one often finds that if someone has scientific training, they can be more, not less, likely to have the ‘penny drop’ on creation, given a chance to hear the evidence. For instance, Canadian student Heather W. wrote (emphasis added):
“I just want to encourage all of you out there that believe in and keep fighting for the truth of a literal creation. I am a university student and every day I am thankful for the biblical worldview my parents gave me. They also taught creation as fact with the help of CMI … . We are force fed evolution here every day. I see so many purposeless, confused, lost people with no ‘rudder’ to help them steer in the ‘wind’ of ignorant opinion. I live in a dorm and when we get into theological debates it always comes back to creation/evolution. I find many of the science students are more open since they can see the incredible, impossible, complexity of our world … The arts students are a bit more difficult since their understanding of the sciences is limited but they don’t know how little they know. … Anyway, keep up the good fight. We aren’t just fighting for freedom, and a healthy society, but for the eternity of a truly lost generation.”
We don’t pretend for a moment that we are not ‘up against it’. In Professor Phillip Johnson’s words, the forces of evolutionism “have the microphone” in our society.6 So Christians are not exactly in a position to launch a full frontal assault.
It hasn’t always been so; Christianity was once a much more potent force in the culture. The decline has a lot to do with the fact that even before Darwin, the church in general started backing away from seeing the Bible as historical fact in areas like geology and astronomy. Dr Terry Mortenson’s classic book The Great Turning Point shows how this opened the door for Darwin in biology, and paved the way for a continuing process of retreat on Christianity’s relevance to ‘reality issues’ (science, history, knowledge in general).
Gradually, each generation more and more absorbed the idea that the Bible was really only relevant in ‘spiritual’ areas, like faith, worship, feelings, conscience, salvation and morality. All the rest (‘factual stuff’) was safely in a separate mental box (which was definitely shut on Sundays). All teaching on those subjects was left to ‘the world’. But the Bible’s message of salvation is inextricably intertwined with its history of the world. The Lord Jesus said:
“I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?” (John 3:12).
Indeed—how can we expect people to commit to the rational truth-propositions of the Gospel if at the same time they get the message (including from many highly trained church leaders) that they can’t really believe the logical foundational platform of the gospel?7
The church ‘emerges’—into confusion
Once there is this vague general agreement that Christianity is only about subjective things—matters of feelings, the ‘heart’—rather than a complete head-heart integration about things that are objectively, eternally true for all, it’s only a short step to the post-modern dictum that “what’s true for you may not be true for me”. At a recent meeting, a young man who had obviously had intensive theological college training approached. The scientific evidence we presented was highly confronting to him. The theological ‘scholarship’ he relied upon effectively takes no notice of how the Lord Jesus plainly understood Genesis, or what the giants of Hebrew scholarship held to for centuries. It pretends that it is only now, after some 2,000 years, that such latterday prophets can give us insight into Genesis, which can’t mean what it seems to mean.
Listening to him speaking about ‘different kinds of truth’ made it clear how the retreat from biblical inerrancy (due to ‘science’) has led to these sorts of tragically murky ideas that characterise the ‘emerging church’ movement. ‘Emergent’ notions (harder to pin down than nailing jelly8 to a wall) are probably a tougher ‘front’ in the battle than atheism or rank liberalism. Such training against the very idea of absolute truth makes folk much more immune to gospel realities. Please pray for him, e.g. that he reads Refuting Compromise.
Of course, the whole ‘butterfly tactics’ thing helps us stay focused on the main game—speakers going to church after church as patient ‘footsoldiers’ in the battle. Sure, we can and do explain to pastors and parishioners about the feedback we get, confirming that getting Christians to use e.g. Creation magazine with unbelieving friends is a phenomenal tool. But what counts is actual souls won and lives changed for eternity. So it’s great to hear it directly, as Peter K. wrote recently on Facebook:
“Creation magazine won me for Christ in October 2008. I have been a huge fan of creation.com ever since and read the daily feature every day at work during my lunch break. Keep up the good work!”
Thanks, Peter—God willing, we shall.
References and notes
- Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay, three times world heavyweight champion. Ali is currently suffering from Parkinson’s disease probably brought on by repeated head trauma. Return to text.
- Sometimes inaccurately though fittingly cited as “dance like a butterfly”. Return to text.
- From Greek mythology, a nine-headed serpentine water monster. When one of its heads was cut off, it would grow two more. Return to text.
- The blockbuster film Avatar is a classic example—see CMI’s review: Wieland, C., Avatar and the new evolutionary religion, 5 January 2010. Return to text.
- Alien Life / UFO Questions and Answers. Return to text.
- Johnson, a Law Professor Emeritus at UC Berkeley, is somewhat of a ‘father figure’ for the Intelligent Design’ (ID) movement, and has had consistently friendly relations with CMI leadership. Return to text.
- The gospel is the solution to the twin problems of sin and death. And Genesis is not just about creation, but about the origin of sin and death. Return to text.
- Jello for US readers . Return to text.