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Deceitful religious education

Review of God and the Big Bang: Exploring science and Christian belief (ages 11–18) by RE Today Services

by Lucien Tuinstra and Gavin Cox

Published: 7 January 2021 (GMT+10)

Introduction:

God-and-the-BIg-Bang

Compromised views of the Bible (i.e. catering for millions and billions of years and, in some instances, attempts to “baptize evolution into our Christian worldview”)1 all have one thing in common: a departure from clear teaching of Scripture. That is certainly true of the religious education curriculum resource, Exploring science and Christian belief, reviewed here: God and the Big Bang (GATBB). A certain amount of mental gymnastics is required of the students and a lot of philosophical opinion is put forward but in the guise of scientific language. In the introductory section, it is clear that the authors are actively promoting both the big bang and human evolution.

Numerous things could be discussed but we will restrict ourselves to the most concerning ones. Lucien critiqued units 1–3 and Gavin, units 4 and 5. Note: many hyperlinks to various videos in the syllabus appear to be broken so cannot be commented on. The following titles and appropriate ages are those listed on p. 1 of the GATBB classroom resource booklet for teachers.

1. Genesis: the beginning (ages 11–16)

Sharing answers on what Genesis is (and how it should be understood) is a good way to find out where everybody stands, although some people prefer to remain silent and keep their opinions under wraps. Of course, that would not be a fruitful approach in school teaching but it is very unfortunate if (as here) the young people concerned are fed unbiblical interpretations. The next step—to try to come to a class conclusion (p. 5)—raises the concern of ‘consensus science’ and suggests that individual thinking on the part of youngsters likely must bow to the majority (compromised) view.

“What does the Big Bang tell us: about the Universe? Does it offer any sense of comfort or hope? What does it suggest about our place in the Universe as individual humans? Why is it so powerful?” (p. 5)

The idea of the big bang telling us anything is really the fallacy of reification.2 This materialistic explanation of the beginning, void of any deity,3 cannot offer any comfort and hope since these transcend the physical, material world. Plenty of atheists have concluded what human beings signify in the grand scheme of things: next to nothing. Attributing power to a universe that creates itself does nothing to glorify God but, instead, robs Him of His glory. Unlike the curriculum writers, the inconsistency of this is often not lost on children, hence the departure of young people from the church. The big bang does not fit with how God claims to have created in Genesis; see Did God use the big bang? Also, marrying your ‘theology’ to something essentially secular might mean your ideas are widowed tomorrow.

The sun and moon’s creation on day four suggests (in the minds of RE Today writers) “that the Genesis account is indeed figurative rather than historical” (p. 7). This is a common point raised against Genesis 1–11, but it is not based on sound hermeneutics; rather, it is a case of practicing eisegesis,4 since it has been clearly shown that Genesis is historical prose. Importantly, the Bible authors believed it to be history, including Jesus Himself.

Good’ in Hebrew (טוֹב, towb) supposedly means “fit for purpose” (p. 7). If so, it would mean that death, struggle, and disease were God’s original purpose. This depicts Him as an ogre, not a good God. The “fit for purpose” claim of the curriculum writers does not come from the Hebrew text but is used to serve those introducing evolution into the Christian worldview (eisegesis4).

Genesis is claimed to be the work of multiple authors (they list ‘P’ as an example) and the RE Today writers assert that the accounts have altered over time (p. 7), showing a clear influence of their reliance upon the obsolete documentary hypothesis of Julius Wellhausen. Lastly, it is a shame when professing Christians use BCE instead of BC (p. 7), when for centuries almost everybody has known Jesus divides history into BC and AD.

2. The rise of humanity (ages 11–16)

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The authors suggest that if the majority agree upon something, it must be ok: “most Christian churches are comfortable with the theory of evolution as the best explanation of how diverse life evolved after the world came into being” (p. 10). Is this an exaggeration, or have most churches placed the Holy Bible underneath the science of fallible man?

One example of Scripture being subjected to man’s opinion is GATBB’s claim of “the late arrivals of humans” (p. 11). This is opposite to Jesus’ own teaching in such verses as Matthew 19:4 (also Mark 10:6) and Luke 11:50. Another example is, “if you are willing to accept the idea of a God it makes perfect sense to see morality developing through the evolutionary process” (p.13). This is deceitful because the decline in morals is linked to evolutionary belief. Yes, if we add a god to an evolutionary process, of course morality must somehow have evolved too; in other words: humanity fell upwards.5

Further, GATBB makes reference to, “the billion-year development of our genes” (p. 13, referencing author Matt Ridley)?6 No evolutionist would place the evolution of modern man further back than one million years at the very most, so what is conveyed to young people here is that we are related to all living organisms, right back to pond-scum; in other words, it was from goo-to-you-via-the-zoo. However, teaching them evolutionary magic and human evolution stories is false ideological indoctrination. It is also contrary to scientific fact, such as the established fact that genomes (human or otherwise) are rapidly deteriorating.

Even stranger is the, “outlook that reality is created by humans through their language, laws and social interactions” (p. 13, after Berger).7 Perhaps “created” is just a poor substitute for ‘described’, but it certainly implies mankind generating morality, rather than our Holy God.

Granted, these last two paragraphs are based upon the writings of others: Ridley on the modern evolutionary view, Berger on the sociological view. Also listed are Darwin on the historical evolutionary view, and Lizzie Henderson (of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion) on the Christian evolutionary view. Why all these confusing ideas about various people’s evolutionary views, when you have a perfectly Good Book to refer to, describing the biblical view?

The confusion is compounded by further statements like, “with every new discovery our ideas change and develop” (p. 14). This is a reminder of the Apostle Paul’s exhortation (Ephesians 4:14), “that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes”. The GATBB writers also talk of, “Homo sapiens, one of the five living groups of great apes,” a statement that is emphasised in the accompanying video, where mankind is alleged to be 97% similar to chimps. In 2007, Science reported the difference was greater than 1%.8 So is RE Today to be commended here, for reducing the number from 99% to 97%? Why would it be a good idea to suggest to children that they share ancestry with ape-like creatures? This is contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture and does nothing for children’s views of themselves, nor that of their neighbours. What’s more, even a 97% figure paints an inaccurate picture—it is likely to be not more than 87%, and could be closer to 81%.

3. Earthquakes and evil (ages 14–16)

Different categories for evil are suggested: “natural evil (caused by nature), moral evil (caused by humans), ecological evil (damage caused to the environment by human actions) and evolutionary evil (suffering caused through maladaptation to the environment)” (p. 16). Two of these are linked to humans as moral beings, whereas the other two stem from ecology. Clearly there is a distinction between natural ‘evil’ (both before and after the Fall) and moral evil (only occurring after Adam sinned) as Nick Higgs says in the accompanying curriculum DVD. Irrespective of these definitions of evil, RE Today should first be giving young people an understanding of the originally perfect creation account, based on the word ‘good’. This is declared seven times in Genesis 1, the last instance as ‘very good’. Only then is there a proper context for explaining the word ‘evil’, a word which does not occur in Genesis 1.

Augustine of Hippo’s theodicy is very inaccurately summarised by GATBB: “God’s original creation was perfect and blissful, it changed when human beings arrived” (p. 20). The last word should read ‘sinned’. Accepting the authors’ views, it certainly wasn’t perfect or blissful for those creatures who were living through the many millions of years of supposed evolution.

The position GATBB takes is the reason for Steph Bryant having to say in the video, “I don’t have a complete answer to how God can be all-loving and all-powerful and yet bad stuff happens” (00:54). Nobody knows the thought processes in God’s mind, but His warning to Adam about the forbidden fruit in Genesis 2:17 provides unambiguous answers to this wilful ignorance, especially when combined with other passages on ‘Paradise Lost’/‘Paradise Regained’ (e.g. Genesis 3:14–19; Romans 8:20–23; Revelation 21:4–5).

The video presents what at times almost seems a pantheistic view that, “everything that happens in the world is God” (01:15), including, “when two tectonic plates move against each other, that’s God”. Cleary, nothing that happens in the world escapes God’s attention or is outside of His control—He is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. But to say of plate movements and earthquakes, “that’s God” is sheer confusion. Nevertheless, Higgs goes on to say, “that’s part of God’s ongoing creativity”. This is diametrically opposed to Genesis 2:2, which speaks of God’s creative work having “finished”.

Higgs answers the big question, “why do we have to die?” (04:00) by saying that, “Biologically, death is almost a necessity … because of the way that evolution works”. Again, human reasoning trumps biblical history and subverts theological truth. Rather than looking to the Bible for answers, students are informed that science gives the answer. Yet, Higgs finishes with a statement that is logically inconsistent with all that has gone before: “But, as a Christian, that is surely the ultimate message of hope that … we overcome that death”. Is it any wonder that the Church is haemorrhaging its young people if they accept wrong teaching of this sort, and it is not counteracted with sound teaching?

Unfortunately, this is common practice with theistic evolutionists: while some of them may take God at His word for future events (beyond death), they do not do so when it comes to past events. A good example of the ongoing denial of historical events is the statement, “God cannot stop water from drowning someone or fire from burning someone” (p. 21). Jesus stopped Peter from drowning when he was walking to him on the water but his faith failed and he began to sink (Matthew 14:22–33). Also, God supernaturally preserved three of Daniel’s friends from Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace (Daniel 3:8–30).

4. Religion and science: what are their purposes? (ages 14–18)

In this section, RE Today are effectively pitting science against faith. We will tackle the DVD content first, then the workbook in terms of the most serious errors promoted. Alison Morgan, theologian and author, states in the DVD presentation:

“Science is about trying to get to ‘know stuff’. Religion on the other hand, isn’t about that at all—[not] in the same way. Religion looks not at the natural world, about things that we can know. Religion is devoted to how to make sense of these things.”

Morgan’s statement is self-refuting and circular. Firstly, the nebulous use of the term ‘religion’ is careless, an all-encompassing term to include every system of religious thought; in which case, on one level, what follows is correct if one excludes Biblical Christianity. However, Morgan does identify as a believer in Jesus Christ later on in the DVD, so she is using ‘religion’ in an irresponsible manner. Furthermore, her worldview divorces faith from science—regarding them as mutually exclusive.

Ironically, it was the creationist scientist Francis Bacon who formalized this great divide as integral to his scientific method. Bacon excluded Scripture from the study of nature since he viewed them as ‘two books.’ Bacon went as far to say that, to build ‘natural philosophy’ (science) on any part of the Bible was an ‘idol’ that had to be ‘renounced.’ Wieland and Sarfati correctly state:

“This wilful and untrue presupposition, that the Bible has nothing to teach us about understanding the workings of nature, is the ugly root which has influenced some of the greatest scientific minds from Bacon onwards.”9

If Scripture is excluded from our thinking about creation, then incorrect conclusions will be drawn.

Roger Bretherton, an applied psychologist, is interviewed, but his comments further add to the confusion; he states the following:

“The interesting thing for me as a scientist is that, when I’m actually doing science, God isn’t really a very good variable … [F]or all intents and purposes when I’m actually doing science—measuring, developing methodology—God is excluded” (emphasis added).

This is not the attitude of most of the founding fathers of the major branches of science. For instance, Johannes Kepler (1571–1630) the astronomer who discovered the planetary laws of motion encapsulated the idea that science is thinking God’s thoughts after him when he stated:

“Those laws [of nature] are within the grasp of the human mind; God wanted us to recognize them by creating us after his own image so that we could share in his own thoughts.”10

The GATBB workbook states:

“In modern society, faith and science are often seen as polar opposites. The Big Bang theory and the theory of evolution, for example, are often assumed to be at odds with a Christian view of the Universe. However, in the nineteenth-century, as ground-breaking discoveries in geology and biology were being made, there was no perceived divide between faith and science” (emphases added).

This statement is a conflation of egregious error. Big Bang and evolution are most certainly “at odds” with a “Christian view of the Universe”—as creation.com has consistently been demonstrating for years. Despite the above quote, there were many people in the 19th century, working in biology (e.g. Louis Pasteur) and geology (the ‘scriptural geologists’) who recognized the dangers of compromising Scripture. However, the students of this GATBB resource are being told ‘what to think’, rather than ‘how to think’, and this coercion is evident throughout.

Another class activity (p. 23) is to ask for volunteers to argue for the existence of things, such as “the chair they are sitting on, themselves, the school, their feelings.” One of the items to consider is, “How about proving God exists? Does faith in God actually require proof? What kind of proof?” However, how would this activity be fairly arbitrated? If the RE teacher is not a Christian (and most would not be, or would themselves feel muzzled in their expression of faith in a public school setting) then it is very doubtful that equal time would be given to a Christian student.

One suspects it may even lead to intimidation of genuine faith, which becomes a real possibility when class discussion turns to serious moral issues and the role of ‘traditional’ Christian leadership responses to these challenges.

On page 25 of the workbook, students are confronted with a discussion which opens with the statement, “Gene Robinson is the world’s first openly gay Anglican bishop.” What follows is an apologetic for why Robinson believes homosexual relationships are ok. A linked online resource supposedly explains further Robinson’s debunking of the Levitical holiness laws in their relation to homosexual activity (but at the date of this writing, the URL does not work). The GATBB booklet supplies this summary:

“Robinson argues that many actions are forbidden in Leviticus [7:18; 11:10-13, 20, 23, 41-42; 18:22; 20:13 “an abomination”] such as not wearing different cloths next to each other or not planting different kinds of seeds together, but that these actions are not inherently wrong … a Christian (or Jew) who does not keep the holiness code does not have to view homosexual relations as unclean.”

However, even a cursory reading of Leviticus reveals different Hebrew words for these different categories, and different contextual usage. The context setting is that forbidden foods, or items, are prohibited with the phrase “to you”, i.e. the covenant community. But when it comes to moral prohibitions like homosexuality, incest, and bestiality, these are universally condemned, rather than being narrowly applied just to Israel. Furthermore, the sexual sins use a completely different Hebrew word for abomination (Tô`ēbâ), which, unlike the dietary/separation laws, is directly linked to the death penalty.

However, would a high-school student be able to critique Robinson’s statements in class and bring a biblical answer to homosexuality? One suspects not, and even if they did, would it be encouraged? Our modern climate of ‘tolerance’ (i.e. all views are equal—except the biblical view that doesn’t tolerate all views), combined with what schools are actually teaching about sexuality, means one can be quite sure that any genuine expressions of biblical truth expressed by pupils would be shut down in class, or worse.

Liberal theologians, Rudolf Bultmann and Søren Kierkegaard (p. 27) are figures one would expect to come across during a theology or philosophy degree, rather than in a curriculum for 14–18 year olds. Regarding Bultmann, GATBB offers a 200-word paragraph explaining Bultmann’s view of ‘demythologizing Jesus’ (His miracles and resurrection) and New Testament miracles, in keeping with the ‘modern mind’ and its rejection of the supernatural as ‘meaningless’. Later in the same section, the students are asked to discuss why ‘logical positivism’ holds religious statements to be meaningless, again a rather advanced topic for this age group!

Moreover, although these tough questions will certainly be met in the real world, it is doubtful that this curriculum would provide the safe environment for these kinds of questions to be aired without bias.

5. Religion and science: a problem of language? (ages 16–18)

In the DVD, philosopher Chris Oldfield offers a potted history of the divergence of ‘religious’ (read Christian) and scientific thought—from Thomas Aquinas, to the Reformation, the Wars of Religion (1648), and on to Karl Marx. Oldfield builds the case that religion was seen as a ‘tool of oppression’ used by the ruling class. He then asks a pertinent question, which is not answered positively, but left hanging in a very unsatisfactory manner:

“…this idea, that religion is essentially an oppressive thing, from which we need to get free, is something, arguably, we’re still shaking off. But all of this is underlying the current debates, that maybe science is our weapon to get rid of the tyranny of religion? Actually, whether science gets rid of religion in that sense or not, is kind of irrelevant to what Aquinas thought religion was, or what the New Testament was all about—but that’s another story.”

Oldfield’s statement is highly irresponsible. And from how the GATBB workbook is set-up (discussed below), the overall effect will be to undermine students who hold a biblical and personal Christian faith. The equivocation continues with the defining of ‘scientific language’ and ‘religious language’, with the (possibly intended) consequence that the Bible is diminished as the ultimate source of authority. For instance, theologian R.B. Braithwaite, in a lecture given in 1955, states the following (p. 31):

“Elijah’s contest with the prophets of Baal was an experiment to test the hypothesis that Jehovah and not Baal controlled the physical world. But most educated believers at the present time do not think of God as being detectable in this sort of way…”

From the biblical perspective, Braithwaite’s statement is incorrect. The miracle recorded in 1 Kings 18:19–46 was a divinely sanctioned, unique display of God’s sovereignty over Baal. In no way can it be said that Elijah ‘tested’ God. Braithwaite, being a theologian, should know that to test the Lord is to break the commandments (Deuteronomy 6:16). Furthermore, he conflates the difference between operational science and historical events. In so doing he denies Scripture as a trustworthy and divinely inspired source of information about a past, supernatural event.

In comparing religious language with scientific language the precision of the latter is extolled because of its ability to accurately convey information about the physical world. In contrast, Philosopher L. Wittgenstein is quoted to suggest how plastic (implying religious) language can be: “meanings of words are not given by the words themselves but how we use them.” However, this cannot be true, because language is only understood as a recognized convention, and that requires not just individuals, but communities.

Ironically, a little later, scientist Tom Ingleby states, “… another purpose of scientific language is to share information among the community … .” However, if we apply the previous quote by Wittgenstein to scientific language, then science as a discipline fails, for there could be no clarity of thought, and the community of scientists could not understand what was being said by the individual. Clearly there is a contradiction here. The language of Scripture is precise, and correct exegesis demands of the interpreter precisely the opposite of what Wittgenstein is promoting.

Ingleby also says that, “scientific language is not meant to go beyond what the physical observations and models say.” This may be the most correct statement in the entire workbook; however, in the context, it is deeply ironic. Within the worldview of big bang and evolution, scientific language is certainly forced to go far “beyond what the physical observations” allow. By definition, these are words that describe a series of hypothetical events that supposedly happened in the past, whereas scientific language should be limited to “physical observations.” Anything beyond this is ‘scientism’, which is what this GATBB curriculum resource book promotes from beginning to end.

Summing up

RE Today, funded by the nefarious Templeton Foundation, has produced a curriculum that is highly prejudiced towards a secular view of origins. Its compromised teaching actually fosters a hostile academic environment for Christian pupils that could potentially undermine and damage their faith. Therefore, it is highly concerning that such a resource will hinder, rather than help genuine believers—and muddy the waters for everyone else.

In many ways, this GATBB resource would seem to take the super out of supernatural so that miracles are discounted. What does naturalism lead to? Unbelief! Taking away the miracles (typically by adding time) robs God of His glory and majesty. Who would want to worship a god who took billions of years to get to the pinnacle of creation, humankind? Who would want to pray to a god who used a process of death, suffering, and disease? This is certainly not apparent from any honest reading of the Bible. Is it any wonder that children, and many others, are confused?11

In addition, the imagery used throughout the DVD presentations builds on the idea of pluralism. There are several occasions when the presenters employ the term ‘religion’, and images of Far Eastern temples with idol statues are flashed on the screen. In other words, Christianity is presented as just one of many equally valid beliefs, competing in the market place of ideas. Such thinking is in stark contrast to the exclusive message of Jesus Christ (John 14:6), as per the testimony of the Apostle Peter (Acts 4:12).

Christian parents need to be aware of this material and be on hand to guide their teens through the potential mine field that this irresponsible course unfortunately lays down. The GATBB curriculum conflates Scripture with a general idea of ‘religion’ and confuses ‘science’ with ‘scientism.’ It thereby robs God’s Word of its unique claim to authority in all matters of truth, both historical, doctrinal, and moral. The overall effect will be to pull the theological rug from under the students’ feet.

References and notes

  1. Alexander, D., Creation or evolution, do we have to choose? Monarch Books, Oxford, p. 213, 2014. Return to text.
  2. To reify something is to take something abstract and treat it as if it is real, physical entity—a fallacious thing to do. Return to text.
  3. That is, unless the deity (he/she/it) is arbitrarily tacked on, perhaps as the ‘first cause’, as many theists try to do. Return to text.
  4. An interpretation, especially of Scripture, that expresses the interpreter’s own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the meaning of the text (Dictionary.com). Exegesis reads out from the text whereas eisegesis reads human opinions into the text, which is a wrong (even dangerous) way to read Scripture. Return to text.
  5. For an example of how far this deceitful thinking may be taken, see: Bell, P.B., Homo lapsus—another failed theodicy, A review of Homo Lapsus: Sin, evolution and the God who is love (Niamh M. Middleton), Journal of Creation 34(2):48–51, August 2020. Book Review by Philip B. Bell Return to text.
  6. Ridley, M., The Origins of Virtue, Penguin Books, London, 1996. Return to text.
  7. Berger, P., The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a sociological theory of religion, Anchor Books, New York, 1967. Return to text.
  8. Cohen, J., Relative Differences: The myth of 1%, Science 316(5833):1836, 2007 | doi:10.1126/science.316.5833.1836. Return to text.
  9. Wieland C. and Sarfati J. Part 1: Culture wars: Bacon vs Ham. The story behind the modern-day separation of faith and science, Creation 25(1):46–48, 2002. Return to text.
  10. todayinsci.com/K/Kepler_Johannes/KeplerJohannes-Quotations.htm. Return to text.
  11. Billingsley, B. et al., Scientism, creationism or category error? A cross‐age survey of secondary school students’ perceptions of the relationships between science and religion, The Curriculum Journal, 13 October 2020 | doi.org/10.1002/curj.83. Return to text.

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