The theological corruption of the Evangelical Church: Andrew Kulikovsky responds to John Dickson’s charges of misrepresentation
Editorial note 9 October 2014: Theistic evolutionist and author Dr John Dickson claims on his blog (http://www.johndickson.org/blog/corrupting-the-evangelical-church) that he has been seriously misrepresented and that his words have been taken out of context in Andrew Kulikovsky’s article The theological corruption of the Evangelical Church. Dr Dickson subsequently raised this matter on his Facebook page, on which there was considerable discussion of the issue, including this response from Andrew Kulikovsky, which he subsequently (27 October 2014) edited slightly.
I would like to thank John for his feedback and response, and welcome the opportunity to address his concerns.
Let me first make it clear that the purpose of my paper is to be a general indictment of the general trends in the evangelical movement in Australia and around the world. I have three concerns about the church’s general direction as I see it: (1) Christians have a one-dimensional view of God that misrepresents His true character, and is therefore idolatrous; (2) Scripture is too often abused, neglected or flat out ignored; and (3) the gospel and the Christian mission is being distorted away from the Great Commission. It was not specifically about John Dickson or anyone else. Although I critically cite various Christian writers/spokesmen, it was not my intention to suggest that they (including John Dickson) have a deliberate program to corrupt the Church! I only cited Dickson (and a few others) as specific examples of the general concerns I describe above. Again, this does not mean that I think those people are deliberately trying to corrupt the Church! Therefore, the title of John’s response "Why I Might Not be Corrupting the Evangelical Church, After All" is an outrageous straw man—I never said John was corrupting the Church, only that some of his public comments are examples of the concerns I have about the general direction of the evangelical Church, and to hear John Dickson claim that I misrepresented him after seeing how he has misrepresented my argument is rather grating.
Regarding Augustine, Dickson claimed that I suggested he employed Augustine “in support of an old earth…” He then claimed that he refer to Augustine “for one point only (on Q&A and in his writings on the subject): to show that a non-concrete interpretation of Genesis 1 is not (necessarily) a nervous reaction to modern science; it has an ancient precedence.” But again, this is a misrepresentation of what I said in my article! I never claimed Dickson used Augustine in support of an old earth. I was discussing the history of interpretation of the creation account and simply noted that Augustine “held to an instantaneous creation and therefore interpreted the days of creation allegorically, although he was not entirely happy with this approach. Nevertheless, he believed in a young earth that was only thousands of years old, not billions.” My point was that although Augustine held to an allegorical interpretation, he did so only to justify his pre-commitment to an instantaneous creation. In any case, Dickson’s comments on the history of interpretation were selective and misleading because his sources were mostly from one school of thought and do not reflect the overwhelming majority view of both Jews and Christians that the creation account indicates supernatural creation in six ordinary days (see the footnotes in my article for substantive papers that document this).
Dickson accuses me of stringing clauses of his sentences together “in a rather cheeky way” to make him say something completely at odds with what he actually said. This is a lie. My citation was a direct quotation of what he actually said on the Q&A program. Nevertheless, I accept that Dickson juxtaposed two separate thoughts when he said “13.72 billion years ago there was a bang and evolution by natural selection.” To me, it sounded like he thought the big-bang and evolution were essentially contemporaneous. However, I stand by my comment that there was no ‘bang’ and to think there was is to completely misunderstand the big-bang theory. In any case, I can only comment on what Dickson actually said. I cannot read his mind.
Dickson also claimed that I used “the content of the video to underline the point that old earth creationism leads to further theological corruption in other important areas, like sex and marriage.” Once again, this is a gross misrepresentation of my article. The issue of gay marriage has nothing at all to do with old earth creationism—the two issues are in no way related—and I made no such suggestion in my article. For Dickson to suggest that I argue this relationship means that he is misrepresenting me. Again, this is particularly grating given that he has insisted I misrepresented him.
Regarding the Christian response to the push for gay marriage, Dickson said that his point is that “the church, as the church, does not have a mandate from Scripture to ‘block legislation’ or ‘impose legislation’ in a democracy that wants things to be otherwise.” But who is “the church”? It could be a particular denominational group e.g. the Catholic Church, the Uniting Church or Anglican Church, or it could be the body of Christ—the community of believers. If Dickson is referring to a particular denomination then I agree, but that is never going to happen anyway. The large denominational bodies are often themselves divided on such issues and none of them are large enough to impose anything anyway.
In subsequent personal communication, Dickson explained that he believes society thinks the church is ‘blocking’ and ‘imposing’ laws. Therefore, he argues we should make it clear that that is not the church’s calling: “This is not a ‘Christian country’ and “[w]e have no special privilege or right.” Rather, he believes persuasion is the key: “We are one significant seat at the table and we should be seeking to persuade as best we can.” But if Dickson is referring to the community of believers, and emphasises the value of persuasion, then why is it wrong for a large number of Christian voters to lobby politicians, to voice their concerns about gay marriage, and to persuade their local members to “impose legislation” or “block legislation”? This is every person’s democratic right, and you can guarantee that gay marriage advocates will be trying to influence and pressure politicians to impose legislative changes they desire!
Again, in subsequent personal communication, Dickson further explains that he has no problem with church leaders and informed Christian academics meeting with politicians and making the case for classical marriage and against same sex ‘marriage.’ However, Dickson does object to what he describes as “political bully tactics, where Christian leaders threaten to rally our constituency against the MP if the MP does not seek to block gay ‘marriage.’” For Dickson, such activities are “sub-Christian.” Again, he has no problem with Christians making the case for classical marriage and convincing politicians to use their vote to shape legislation.
It is difficult to understand why Dickson believes political pressure from the Christian community is bullying. In a representative democracy like Australia we elect politicians to be our representatives in parliament. It is their duty to represent those who elected them. The reality, however, is that some politicians have their own strong convictions about certain issues—gay marriage, for example—that are important to them. In such cases, no amount of reasoning will change their minds. They are beyond persuasion. The only way to change their voting intention—if not their minds—is through political pressure, including the fear of losing their seat at the next election. In what way is this kind of pressure “sub-Christian”? What Christian principle is being violated? It should also be noted that the instigation of, and the immense political pressure applied to federal MPs to pass, the Marriage Amendment Act 2004 (Cth), which defined marriage as only between a man and woman was, based on Dickson’s view, an act of political bullying by the Christian community that was “sub-Christian.” In fact, if persuasion is the only acceptable method for legislative change then it would seem that, according to Dickson, any protest or petition amounts to political bullying and is thus sub-Christian!
In addition, I disagree that Christians have no mandate to affect legislative change. Jesus Himself told us to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matt 5:13-16). Being salt and light implies proclamation, confrontation, and influence—including political influence.
Dickson says he thinks Christians should have a strong voice in the public square but when interviewer Simon Smart asked him “where to from here?” his response was unconvincing. Dickson wants Christians to apologise for unbiblical behaviour, and suggests we all should respect each other and get on with each other even though we profoundly disagree. But that can only happen if we say nothing negative at all about the homosexual lifestyle. Homosexuality is not merely an intellectual or ethical issue; it is not a “definitional issue” as Dickson suggests. Homosexuality is sin—it is an extreme example of rebellion against God’s order. It is a gross perversion of what God intended, and it is an unhealthy and self-destructive lifestyle. These are important points that should be communicated to homosexual people in a loving but frank way. Jesus would certainly have pointed out their sin, just as he pointed the sin of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-11), he offers forgiveness but demands repentance. Yet, there is nothing in Dickson’s interview or his response to my article that suggests that he believes we should attempt to persuade homosexuals that their chosen lifestyle is in fact sinful, unhealthy and self-destructive, and that God can deliver them from it.
I accept that Dickson was primarily referring to some Christians’ unbiblical behaviour toward gay people, but he seems to be implying that the words or actions of some Christians disqualifies all other Christians from speaking out! Dickson proclaimed: “until the gay community really hears Christians apologise [for unbiblical behaviour] it’s almost as if we really don’t have the right to say anything on this…” But why should I or any other Christian be denied the right to proclaim God’s condemnation of homosexuality merely because the Westboro Baptist Church says stupid and offensive things about homosexuals? In addition, as Dickson alluded to in his interview, many gay people see their sexual preference as an innate part of their being. Thus, any criticism of homosexuality as a sexual preference is taken personally. In other words, if any person makes a rational critical argument of the homosexual lifestyle and its inferiority in comparison with heterosexual relationships, gay people perceive such arguments as inherently nasty, abusive, unloving, etc. when such motives were never intended! We are to love the sinner (homosexuals) but hate the sin (homosexuality), but homosexuals often have trouble distinguishing between themselves and their actions. Put differently, the gay community’s claims of being victims of verbal abuse or unchristian behaviour at the hands of their Christian opponents are in many cases unjustified. As Christians we believe (because the Bible teaches) that homosexuality is sin and a perversion of God’s gift of sex. In fact, it is dehumanising because it leads to dead-end relationships that literally lead to a dead-end because homosexuals cannot reproduce.
It is important to note that, contrary to Dickson’s claims, my comments and criticisms were made in good faith based on what he said. Indeed, I quoted his actual words to ensure that I could not be accused of misrepresenting or misquoting him. I accept that sometimes we struggle to communicate exactly what we mean, and that I may not have grasped every nuance Dickson intended, but the claim that I misrepresented him is without foundation. In fact, as noted above, the opposite is the case: Dickson has certainly misrepresented my arguments! At best, Dickson can only claim that I misunderstood him, but even if this is true, surely a lot of the fault lies with Dickson himself and his failure to clearly and unequivocally articulate his views.
In any case, the main purpose of my article was to call the evangelical church back to its main mission—the fulfilment of the Great Commission. I hope we can at least agree that this is our primary goal as evangelical Christians.