Evangelical Christian leaders promote evolution
If the foundations are destroyed what can the righteous do?
In early August 2009, Northcote Baptist Church in Auckland, New Zealand, hosted a seminar, sponsored by TANSAA,1 featuring presentations mainly by theistic evolutionists. Entitled Faithful Science, the speakers included lecturers from four Christian training colleges (Laidlaw College, Carey College, Pathways College and the Bethlehem Institute) plus academics from secular universities. They covered subjects such as: science and faith, evolution and evil, evolution and purpose and human evolution. The common denominator was a determination to reject Genesis chapters 1–11 as a plain and accurate account of the earliest history of our world, promoting instead that these accounts are “myth”. Speakers urged that a time frame of billions of years and a mechanism of evolution must be substituted for the plain account of Genesis.
Although the speakers were at pains to affirm they believed “God exists” I would respectfully suggest that this is not the issue. Rather, the issue is whether God has spoken in the Bible, and will we believe what He says? How can Christian leaders reject the plain meaning of God’s inspired Word? In particular how can they avoid the plain meaning of Exodus 20:11 which states “For in six days God created the heavens, the earth, the sea and all that is in them.” Equally plain, the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 tabulate that this creation took place approximately 6,000 years ago.
The speakers raised various “straw men” at the seminar to justify their unbelief in a plain reading of Genesis 1–11:
- “A literal belief in Genesis is simplistic and naive.” Although accused of wooden literalism creationists in fact advocate a “plain reading” rather than a slavish “literal meaning”. In other words we are to read Scripture as it was intended to be read. Genesis 1–11 is written in plain Hebrew historical narrative, exactly like the balance of Genesis. It is not Hebrew poetry. We often quote Hebrew expert Prof. Barr of Oxford University, who endorses the creationist understanding of the word “day” in Genesis 1 stating in effect, “it means 24 hours” (see Should Genesis be taken literally).
- “Genesis conflicts with science.” But there are plenty of PhD scientists who accept the historicity of a plain reading of Genesis 1–11. Disagreements between evolutionist and creationist scientists only emerge when they talk about the past, which is outside the province of scientific observation. We cannot do science experiments in the past. To find out about the past you need an eyewitness. That is exactly what the book of Genesis is—an eyewitness account inspired by God—who was there when it happened (see creation question/answer topics).
- “Christian students will be bowled over at university if they are not taught theistic evolution.” Rather, the “boot is on the other foot”. The student who buys into theistic evolution abandons belief in the plain meaning of Scripture. The doubts are inevitably followed by: “If Genesis 1–11 is just a bunch of ‘Bible stories= myths = fairy stories’ then where does the truth of Scripture begin?” In contrast, creationists’ experience attests that it is a simple matter to “bullet-proof” students against the persuasive lies of evolution by showing how mountains of evidence fit the Bible’s 6,000-year timeframe of history (see e.g. Creating a stir at university).
Let us be frank about what was going on at this conference and ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” Jesus accepted a plain reading of Genesis 1–11 as true history (e.g. Matthew 19:3–6, 24:37–39). Yet theistic evolutionists reject the plain reading of Genesis 1–11, and consequently reject Jesus’ teaching in this area. This is no “side issue”.
What is at stake is the credibility of the Creator God, who says he has revealed Himself in the Bible. Unbelief in Genesis “unlocks a door”. Once the sanctity of the foundational belief that “all Scripture is inspired by God” is broken, a downward spiral to unbelief is set in progress. It can be readily shown that so-called “liberal” denominations started down this slippery slope when they first rejected the plain message of Genesis 1–11 in favour of long evolutionary ages. Sadly, it almost inevitably ends with a rejection of the gospel itself. And what has happened in churches also applies to individuals—and to Christian training institutions.
Unfortunately many Christians, churches and Bible colleges no longer accept what the inspired Word of God clearly says, but prefer to believe the words of men instead—fallible scientists who profess to be wise. This is a pathway to spiritual disaster.
The only remedy for such a departure from the faith is repentance and return. Jesus made it very clear that He expects us to walk the narrow road:
If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:26)
May those who teach at our Christian training institutions be unashamed to teach what the Word of God plainly says, even if the world laughs and disagrees.
Graham P., New Zealand, 1 September 2009
A very sad day for NZ, when Baptists mobilize against the Bible. My own kids tell
me that their ‘unbelieving’ friends don’t believe in evolution
either: they aren’t convinced by the arguments.
How foolish of the ‘church’ then to abandon its own Book?
I think that young people aren’t satisfied with Darwin any more: they see through the cliches and lies.
Here’s our chance to fill the void.
Myk H., New Zealand, 1 September 2009
May I just say, as one of the speakers at this conference, that you should really check your facts before making comments like this. Not all the presenters were theistic evolutionists at all, so it was not all one way as your article mistakenly suggests. I have never used the term theistic evolutionist of myself and do not subscribe to it and I was not supporting an evolutionary reading of Scripture at this conference. So get your facts straight please before publically posting! Thank you.
Editor: The first sentence of the article has been modified to read “mainly by theistic evolutionists” in response to this feedback.
Madeleine F, New Zealand, 1 September 2009
I find it very frustrating that you are willing to write off many God fearing, conservative Christians because they disagree with you as to how to interpret the first chapters of Genesis.
My husband spoke at that conference. He is not committed to evolution but he does believe that the first 3 chapters of Genesis are not literalistic history. His position is that God created and sustains all things, but how he did it and how long ago he did it is not set out in those chapters. Because of the issues around philosophy of science, epistemology and because scripture is not clear on it, Matt remains agnostic on the method and how long ago God created the Universe.
Your piece seems to suggest that people like myself and my husband are of the wishy washy PC liberal type of ‘Christian’ or that we are scared of the world and afraid to stand against it or are trying to hide our faith.
We write the most read conservative Christian blog in New Zealand, www.mandm.org.nz. We oppose homosexual practice, abortion, sex outside of marriage, state interference in the family and a raft of other conservative Christian causes publicly on our blog. We are and have been vilified for our faith many times and we proudly stand our ground and defend it. We do this because we fear God more than men. I said love, honour and obey in our wedding vows-in front of our non-Christian families. Neither of us believe that women should be pastors. We are extremely conservative, we have a strong track record of publicly defending the faith, we are unashamed to teach what the Word of God plainly says, even if the world laughs and disagrees but we disagree with you that the early chapters of Genesis teach what you think it does.
My husband holds a PhD in theology and Masters in Philosophy. Those qualifications represent hours and hours of commitment to his faith. He loves God and is committed to examining an understanding his word and defending his teachings to the world. He studies the word honestly and willingly follows it to where it genuinely leads to the best of his ability to interpret it.
Not everyone who fails to share your interpretation of Genesis needs to repent or lacks righteousness. Your suggestion that they do is offensive and, with respect, is out of line one Christian to another. God is the judge of men’s hearts; by all means open the scriptures and discuss and debate the issues and argue your case as to why you think we are wrong but do not blindly assume that your human interpretation is inerrant and that it is your place to call for repentance of people you don’t even know.
Dale C., New Zealand, 1 September 2009
I must be frank. This article is replete with inaccuracies. There was a fair bit
of diversity of views on evolution amongst the speakers (which is pretty kind of
TANSA, which is a pretty evolution-friendly group).
When it comes to any kind of challenge to faith, it is not science (including evolutionary biology) that challenges faith, but rather philosophial naturalism.
One’s views on genetics, biology or whatever doesn’t have any direct bearing on one’s theology or faith. We’ve got to be clear when talking about this stuff, and distinguish between when we are doing a) biblical interpretation, b) using empirical science, or c) trying to do the careful work of relating them (Scripture and Science); and add to this our need to be aware of our philosophical assumptions we bring to the table.
We really need to speak more patiently of one another. Our common faith in the Lord Jesus enables us to do this.
An article like this needlessly and hurfully makes enemies where we should be co-soldiers for the cause of King and Kingdom. For that reason, I think it’s a reasonable request to retract the article or at least remove anything to do with NBC or the Faithful Science conference.
Editor: We regard the article as reporting on a public event together with an opinion on that event by the author. If there is anything that is inaccurate or misrepresented we would like to be advised so we can look to correcting it. However, that the NBC hosted the event is a fact of history. If the leadership of NBC want to add a disclaimer or the like we would be happy to consider that.
Dale C, New Zealand, 9 September 2009
Northcote Baptist leadership wish to make two things clear. First, that our membership reflects a variety of views on this topic, including Young-Earth Creationists, Intelligent Design advocates, and Theistic Evolutionists; and second, that this issue is a ‘non-essential’ for Unity in Christ, and that all three positions reflect honest attempts to rightly and Christianly understand Scripture and Science.
Glyn C., New Zealand, 10 September 2009
I believe CMI is sincere in its quest for truth. I have discussed the following
comment with Mr Bates. It contains facts which are relevant to this discussion and
which I hope you will post alongside this article.
For the record, the most authoritive work on biblical inerrancy in the 20th century was probably that done by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy over a 20 year period ending in 1988. In 1982, ICBI produced a document called the Chicago Statement signed by 300 theologians including Jim Packer, Roger Nicole, Carl Henry, Norman Geisler, JP Moreland, John Warrick Montgomery, Francis Schaeffer, and RC Sproul.
Their words should carry a lot of weight for those concerned about being true to the Bible.
The position argued by CMI was presented to the ICBI by Duane Gish. In response the ICBI said formally, "WE DENY that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood". But the ICBI refused to be pinned down to any particular interpretation of age of earth, length of creation days, manner of creation, etc.
The ICBI Chicago Statement therefore allows Christians to hold the Bible to be inerrant and authoritative, but hold different views on Genesis and the manner and timing of creation.
Editor: See this interesting report on how RC Sproul has now changed his mind on Genesis 1–11.
Hubert K., Canada, 10 September 2009.
A few years ago I read several articles on creationism verses evolution. I had always considered myself to be Christian since I believed in God and also that He created everything. I felt I owed it to myself to read up on both sides in order to make a honest, unbiased opinion for my own peace of mind. On the side of evolution I read quite a few articles that didn’t offer anything concrete other than theories and assumptions, some of which were later retracted, or evolved into other theories. On the side of creation, the first reading of the "Bible", which took almost a year, gave me a new understanding and respect for God and His word. It is written in the scriptures, "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." I experienced that to be true as I read the Bible aloud to myself. On the other hand it is also written "the letter killeth but the Spirit giveth life." True, ironically though my faith seemed to have grown stronger and my belief deeper, my intellect, what little I have (I’m not well educated, mostly self-taught) wasn’t quite satisfied. There seemed to be too many contradictions, too many unanswered questions and, too many things which didn’t make logical sense. Inside I felt a greater sense of security, belonging, peace and well been. Yet I felt starved and cheated intellectually. I realized that you only absorb a small percentage of what you read, so I read the bible again and, again, and again. Some of my questions, after I had found the answers, seem to be very trivial while others, when they were answered, seem to also shed light on other questions. Many questions still remain and, many gaps to be filled.
Robyn LR, New Zealand, 9 November 2009.
I find it interesting that when Creation magazine makes a stand many people get
upset. I have no doubt about the persons’ qualifications involved, but academic
qualifications do not make a man right or just. C.S. Lewis writes that we are expert
at fooling ourselves.
I think the fundamental issues that arise are that if we fail to hold to a literal interpretation of the Genesis account we make some fundamental mistakes in our faith. One is that by thinking God took millions of years to create then doesn’t that undermine the awesome omnipotent power of God? Also if we take the millions of years onto account then death comes before the fall which according to the Genesis account did not happen.
I believe that people can be very fervent in their views however one needs to be objective. If you desire my qualifications then I have a BSc (Hons) in immunology and a Masters of Vet in Epidemiology and I am training to be a secondary teacher in Biology. I am an intellectual ardent creationist who believes the young earth, six days creation. Shoot me if you will.
Good on you Creation Magazine for speaking up.
- TANSAA (Theology and the Natural Sciences in Aotearoa Auckland) operates out of the Laidlaw Carey Graduate School, a joint venture between the Laidlaw College (formerly the Bible College of New Zealand) and Carey Baptist College. TANSAA is a group which meets for discussion and shared papers in the science/theology area and has been recognized by a program funded by the Templeton Foundation, a wealthy foundation that pays theological colleges to run courses promoting evolution. Return to text.