This article is from
Creation 25(3):6, June 2003

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Conflict confusion

Battle sermon goes astray on Genesis


Standing in the searing sands of the Kuwaiti-Iraq desert with his kukri (Gurkha knife1) at his side, Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Collins of Britain’s 1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment cut an impressive figure.

On the threshold of Gulf War II, his rallying speech was everything his troops had come to expect from this near-legendary figure.  Media around the globe printed the speech, which in one paragraph included three references to the Old Testament—Genesis, actually.

Military leaders using biblical/Christian imagery to boost and/or comfort their men on the threshold of battle is not new, and not always sincere.  Saddam Hussein, not exactly renowned for devoutness, enlisted Koranic passages to exhort his people to resist the ‘infidels.’ 

The soldiers under Tim Collins’ command were from the once-Christian UK.  Even though the main rivers of Christianity have largely dried up in his Darwin-saturated country, it would have made sense for him to try to tap into those buried wellsprings of cultural memory.  But his biblical references did not come across like a cynical exercise in ‘using God-talk to psych up the boys in uniform.’  They seemed a sincere attempt to encourage respect for the people and land that they were going to invade. 

‘Iraq is steeped in history,’ he said.  ‘It is the site of the Garden of Eden, of the Great Flood and the birthplace of Abraham. Tread lightly there.’ 

‘Wow,’ some might say.  ‘Isn’t it great that he thinks the Bible accounts really happened somewhere, in a real place?’  Unfortunately, even if sincere or well intentioned, two-thirds of Collins’ biblical references powerfully demonstrate the way in which the church has failed our culture, by totally garbling the Bible’s history and disconnecting it from the real world. 

Think of how today’s average British soldier would take those references.  ‘Garden of Eden?  O, yes, that fictional story about a naked couple, apple, snake, fig leaves and all that.  Is he saying it really happened?  In Iraq?  Well, I do recall that the Bible mentions the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, and they’re in Iraq … .’  But if we take the Bible’s history seriously about a real place called Eden, with real rivers, then as that Genesis history continues, it describes a mountain-covering, year-long global Flood, such that even birds had to come on board to avoid extinction.  In fact, extending beneath Iraq’s Tigris and Euphrates rivers are vast thicknesses of water-borne sediment, just as all over the world.  They contain billions of dead things—fossils, the work of the Flood.  No rivers could possibly have survived such a cataclysm! 

Not surprisingly, therefore, Iraq’s geography is nothing like Eden’s, where one river became four.  (By way of quick aside, the editorial duties of this magazine are, similarly, being devolved onto four additional sets of shoulders—see indexEden cannot be identified anywhere in today’s world.  Iraq’s rivers bear the same names as two of Eden’s four, but settlers often name new landmarks after familiar things in their old world. 

Collins’ Eden boo-boo is understandable.  He clearly believed the Flood ‘happened in Iraq’—he was thinking of it as local, not the real Genesis Flood.  Such confusion has arisen from the church trying to accommodate geology’s alleged millions of years, which demands downgrading the Flood to a local overflow.

Ken Ham’s powerful article in this issue, Living in a bubble, shows how generations of ignoring the Bible’s history, geology and so on have caused the church to become so isolated from the culture that it is in effect existing in a ‘bubble,’ its teaching cut off from reality.  Accounts like Eden and the Flood are not taught as connected to the flow of factual history.  They are generally seen and presented like ‘Aesop’s fables’—stories with a moral message, but not real

So even when biblical history is referred to in secular culture, it is more likely to be in a context of confusion and/or unbelief, which hampers the cause of Christ.  We trust that readers will use Creation widely to help lift the smoke of confusion in the most vital of all battles—the one for the hearts and minds of people and their eternal destiny.


  1. A traditional (and lethal) weapon carried by the Nepalese Gurkha regiments in the British Army.  Collins is a Gurkha brigade commander. Return to text.