Creation among the coconut palms
Meet a Bible teacher who understands ‘where the battle is at’ in the South Pacific
For most of the years that CMI-Australia has had contact with Maurice Nicholson (pictured), we’ve known him simply as a keen supporter, frequently taking trips to Fiji and other Pacific island nations with batches of creation materials.
But after making a few creation missionary forays into Fiji ourselves, we have become aware of the immense regard in which Maurice is held in that nation and region, as a highly respected Bible teacher. And of how this humble, softly-spoken man is being used by God to impact the South Pacific.
For 11 years, from 1961, Maurice worked as a scientist with the Department of Primary Industries at the Maroochy Research Station in southeast Queensland, Australia. His work was in the areas of pineapple flower induction, selection and testing of mutations within banana varieties and breeding of paw-paw (papaya).
At that time, Maurice says, he was a Christian, but still ‘carrying a lot of evolutionary baggage’. He says, ‘If I’d been viewing my work through a biblical framework at that time, I believe in hindsight I would have been an even more effective scientist.’ He resigned to farm tropical fruit in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast hinterland.
In the late 1970s, he attended one of the first meetings of the ministry which went on to become Creation Ministries International. He says, ‘It answered most of my questions about science and the Bible—things just “clicked”.’
Arming for battle
In 1988, he did his Graduate Diploma of Teaching in biology. ‘I asked if I could do my assignment from a creation viewpoint,’ he says. ‘The lecturer asked me, “How on Earth did you manage to get into this course? You won’t pass!” Well, I wrote what I thought. I had lots of battles, especially in the psychology/sociology area.’
In one session, the group was role-playing about a woman who refused to have her daughter attend an evolution class. Maurice was asked, ‘What would you do?’ to which he responded, ‘I would teach creation.’ The class erupted, saying that there was ‘nothing to teach’. So, Maurice says, ‘I went through the geological evidence, then the biological evidence, and finally one of the group said, “You mean something like Noah’s Flood?” So that opened the door to talking about the Bible.’
The session ran out of time, but Maurice recalls the class instructor, a Sikh lady, saying, ‘I don’t see why this couldn’t be taught in classes.’ She also introduced Maurice to a person doing an assignment on creation/evolution.
For the next three years, Maurice taught at an Australian Christian school. He visited Fiji on a vacation, where he had also been invited to preach. After he gave a message on Romans 1, the pastor said, ‘We are losing our young people because of what they are taught in school; when you touched Romans 1:18 onwards, our young people sat up—can you come back?’
Shortly thereafter, in 1992, Maurice went to live in Fiji for seven years, working as a Bible teacher in an evangelical college. During breaks and on weekends he would reach out to that nation in many additional ways with the creation message, using creationist materials.
He currently returns there from his home in Australia once a year for two months to teach on Genesis 1–11. He says with a smile, ‘I never get to Chapter 11, there’s too much there in all those earlier chapters.’ To support these ‘creation missionary’ trips, Maurice largely relies on support from his farm, run mostly by his son Peter.
Maurice’s influence is not restricted to Fiji—he has also taught in the Cook Islands and Tahiti, and his students in Fiji come from all over the South Pacific. His emphasis on the Genesis foundation for biblical authority has profoundly impacted lives, including pastors. We know of churches and Bible colleges in Fiji who say they would willingly throw open their pulpits to Maurice Nicholson at the shortest of notice.
Fiji—paradise being lost?
Fiji is a nation that was profoundly impacted by the Gospel, brought by missionaries in the 1800s. From a culture ruled by animistic superstition, fear and cannibalism, it became a shining example of the transforming influence of Christ. (Even today, at sunset in many resorts, the sound of fresh-faced high school students joyfully singing hymns astonishes many a visitor.)
Alarmingly, though, in recent decades there has been a rapid and continuing decline in Fijian society, with an exponential increase in crime and social problems. Gambling, alcoholism, and abuse of the local narcotic ‘kava’ are all rife, as is family breakup. Even the Australian-born Police Commissioner has said, according to Maurice, ‘This is not the Fiji we used to know.’
As in the rest of the world, this correlates powerfully with the declining influence of the church. In the 1970s, close to 100% of youth attended church—now it is only 20% and declining. Maurice says that he sees a real shift in the leadership of the churches, too, away from a biblical basis for authority. He sees this as a natural outcome of having been persuaded that they cannot trust the Bible’s history because of the ‘millions of years’ being taught in the schools. ‘These leaders don’t believe we came from monkeys’, says Maurice, ‘but the millions of years is programmed into them—not just from the media, e.g. the supposed history of dinosaurs, but also by long-age preachers like Hugh Ross who are often seen on TV in Fiji. So the message is that they can’t trust the Bible’s foundational history.’
Prostitution, once almost non-existent, is now a visible trend in Fiji, as is the increasing visibility of transvestitism and homosexuality. Maurice says he once spoke to a young Fijian law student who had been told to write an assignment on ‘gay rights’. He had been told that he would be marked down if he did not write ‘in favour’.
Maurice gave him the Creation magazine article on the courageous anti-corruption stance of former magistrate Clarrie Briese.1 After reading the article, the student decided to take a stand for truth—he passed his exams.
Ignoring the foundations
Maurice has seen many western ministries come in and try to make a difference, but with no lasting impact. ‘Lots of people flock to hear, but lives are not being changed,’ he says.
‘Knowing Fiji’s recent culture of animism, I even see some ministries majoring on ideas like “generational curses” that are tapping into that background, unwittingly reinforcing ideas like ancestor worship and so on. The effect I see this having is to dilute the power of the Cross2 in people’s thinking.’
He says, ‘Unless biblical authority (which involves trusting the Bible’s history, as it is written) is permitted to impact the culture once again, we will continue to see this ongoing decline. Evolutionary teaching has removed the value system out of their culture, even for non-Christians, because that system was based on the Bible. The same applies to Australia, of course, but when you go to another culture, especially one that’s only recently been so strongly Christian, that’s when you really see it.’
Maurice’s ministry has begun making inroads into secular circles, too.3 He has also been instrumental in the commencement of the Genesis Foundation of Fiji, currently run by a Fijian scientist, Tevita Kete (see box). Both Maurice and Tevita, who has cooperated with us in outreach on Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu, are firm friends of CMI.
The impact of solid creation materials is something Maurice has repeatedly experienced. He and Tevita had done creation teaching together with a lady teacher. She subsequently incorporated it into a biology class, and noticed a powerful change in the students’ values, attitudes and behaviour. In fact, she now has a prepared talk specifically on how the values of the younger generation are affected by what they are taught in biology.
The hunger for answers is the same in Fiji as elsewhere. Maurice recalls the testimony of an ex-Muslim, who said that what set him on the road to becoming a Christian was being given the answer to the question of Cain’s wife.4 And it was seeing all his other questions answered from the Bible, too, that ‘solidified’ his faith, helping him stand in the face of intense current persecution.
We were immensely encouraged to talk to Maurice Nicholson and to hear of his passion for creation evangelism. He says that there is a tremendous hunger for creation materials there, especially small booklets, more readily affordable in that society.
Maurice says, ‘I love Fiji and its people, and I’ll go on spreading the creation/gospel message. Because lasting change cannot be achieved while we ignore the basic problem—the foundational shift that has occurred in this country.’
Creation to the South Pacific
Tevita Kete (pictured) holds two Master’s Science degrees and is the principal figure of The Genesis Foundation of Fiji. He has worked for years as a government research scientist. Commenced in 2004, the organization holds meetings and seminars to get the message into the churches and to teachers, with many doors beginning to open. Operated on a shoestring (Tevita works on a ‘tentmaking’ basis), this work still has many needs. Support may be channelled through CMI-Australia (cheques payable to Creation Ministries International, tell us it’s for Fiji), please click here. Tevita has an M.Sc. in Plant Genetic Resources and Breeding (2003), an M.Sc. equivalent in Tropical Agronomy (CNEARC, France, 1995), and a Diploma of Tropical Agriculture (1984). He is fluent in Fijian, English and French.
Re-posted on homepage: 2 November 2016
References and notes
- Wieland, C., Blowing the whistle on corruption, Creation 26(3):10–14, June 2004;creation.com/briese. Return to text.
- Christ’s death paid for all the sins of those who believe in Him, which would seem to logically include any alleged generationally-caused issues. Return to text.
- Details have been omitted to avoid open doors possibly slamming shut. Return to text.
- For the answer see ‘Cain’s wife—who was she?’ chapter 8 in The Creation Answers Book (contact addresses, please click here); also at <creation.com/cainswife>. Return to text.