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No fence to sit on

Neutrality is impossible in the creation/evolution debate

Can a church take a ‘balanced position’ in the creation/evolution controversy?


Published: 2 August 2012 (GMT+10)

The pastor addressing his large church congregation in Australia was holding two books. He lifted the first up for all to see, saying, “This is one extreme.”

It was a book by well-known atheist Richard Dawkins.

“And this is the other extreme,” he said, raising his other hand to show CMI’s The Creation Answers Book.

His subsequent words made it clear that he thought the best way is ‘somewhere in the middle’. The implication was that if you are a biblical creationist, believing in the Genesis account of six-day creation and a global Flood, then you are an extremist, as much as Richard Dawkins is an extremist. Far better to choose the moderate option.

But is there really such a thing as a ‘moderate’ option? Or similarly a ‘fence’ to sit on until the creation/evolution debate becomes clearer or (as some Christians have said to me) until ‘God tells us face-to-face how He really did it’? (I.e. after they’ve died.)

There’s no ‘moderate’ or ‘fence’ option according to Jesus, who made it clear that a person is either for or against Him (Matthew 12:30, Luke 11:23). And via Moses and the other prophets, God has indeed already told us ‘how He really did it’ (Genesis 1ff.).

Jesus’ own words (which we are not to be ashamed of—Luke 9:26) showed He accepted the Genesis timeline of man’s origin. That is, man has indeed been around “from the beginning of creation” (Mark 10:6), cf. the evolutionary or other long-age view that humans have only existed for the ‘merest blink of a geological eye’, billions of years after the universe supposedly came into being.1

So there’s no ‘fence’ to sit on, but rather, dare I say it, the demarcation between believers and the godless is more like a ravine (Luke 16:26).

Flickr/Marty Stone The fruit of Richard Dawkins’ books is doubt, unbelief, and even suicide—see ‘The God Delusion’ and evolutionary teaching linked to 
The fruit of Richard Dawkins’ books is doubt, unbelief, and even suicide—see ‘The God Delusion’ and evolutionary teaching linked to tragedies.

Indeed, we are both amazed and dismayed that any believer in Christ would put rank-and-file biblical creationists and Christian ministries such as CMI on par with outspoken atheists such as Richard Dawkins. Jesus said, “He who is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40) and “Do not hinder him, for he who is not against you is for you” (Luke 9:50). Even a superficial analysis of Dawkins’ outpourings against God, compared with the whole equipping-and-training-in-Christ thrust of CMI, would surely reveal that CMI is for the Church, for the people in the pews, and for the pastors of churches. CMI is here to help, not to hinder—yet when misguided pastors speak against CMI and its resources as being ‘extreme’, they are, in effect, hindering our work in Christ. By casting a slur on publications such as The Creation Answers Book, Christians who might otherwise have been helped by it, are in fact hindered from being strengthened in their faith (presuming the slur dissuaded them from obtaining the book).

Jesus said, “By their fruit you will know them.” (Matthew 7:16–20) The tragic fruit of Dawkins’ books is doubt and unbelief (and worse, e.g. suicide2). In stark contrast, here’s some fruit from The Creation Answers Book:—a testimony of a young man who attended a CMI presentation at his church:

“[A]fter sitting on the edge of my seat with my jaw to the floor …, I found the pot of gold I was sure I’d been looking for … The Creation Answers Book where Cain found his wife, how long the days in Genesis were, how all the animals fit on the ark, and the elusive dinosaur question!

“The week I bought that book was one of the most exciting weeks of my life. What I read changed my entire perspective of Christianity. I’d finally realised that I didn’t have to abandon reason to have faith in Christ, and that I could take my brain with me into church.

“More than that, I realised that what I once thought was the biggest stumbling block for any Western Christian was in fact one of the greatest witnessing tools available to our generation!”

Kurt M., Australia

Note Kurt’s rejoicing because he “didn’t have to abandon reason to have faith in Christ”.3 That’s a typical fruit of CMI books and other resources. Contrast that with Dawkins’ books, which result in Christians either coming to the opposite conclusion, or worse—abandoning Christ altogether. God willing, we at CMI will continue to do what we can to counter the anti-God teachings of Dawkins4 and others of his ilk—and thus help the churches to do the same.


  1. Wieland, C., Jesus on the age of the earth, Creation 34(2):51–53, 2012. Return to text.
  2. The God Delusion and evolutionary teaching linked to tragedies, Creation 33(2):11, 2011. Return to text.
  3. We see such joy again and again as we minister to the churches that invite us to address their congregations, and as the resources they purchase both strengthen their own faith and others they witness to or pass the resources on to. If your church is interested in exploring what CMI has to offer them specifically, see Ministry programs for your church. Return to text.
  4. For example, Dawkins’ book The Greatest Show on Earth: The evidence for evolution is beautifully rebutted by Dr Jonathan Sarfati’s The Greatest Hoax on Earth: Refuting Dawkins on evolution. And there are several online reviews of Dawkins’ earlier books, e.g. The God Delusion, A Devil’s Chaplain and The Ancestor’s Tale. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Refuting Compromise, updated & expanded
by Dr Jonathan Sarfati
US $17.00
Soft Cover
The Greatest Hoax on Earth?
by Dr Jonathan Sarfati
US $16.00
Soft Cover
The God Reality
by Rob Slane
US $8.00
Soft Cover

Readers’ comments

Timothy D.
Do you know what happens when people sit on a fence? Pain - get the point? When they get off the fence, they get rest! Rest in faith.

Evolution is myth-education. That is a myth-erable lie to believe. Do not
"myth" the truth. Believe the truth - the Bible! After all, if you believe Genesis 1:1, what is the problem with any scripture that follows??
Pain indeed. No-one in their right mind sits on a barbed-wire fence!

N. K.
You say there is no middle ground, but I have a theory that combines the two. And it is a theory that a vast majority of Christians probably hold as what they believe. Is it so crazy to say that God created the Universe, and then used evolution as the mechanism to bring about humans?
David Catchpoole
Actually, I used to hold to such a theory, too. But today, I can give you this straightforward answer: Yes, it is crazy. See e.g. God and evolution: do they mix?, Did the Creator use evolution? and Evolution—the ultimate antidote to spirituality.
Incidentally, I can remember the key moment my thinking was turned around. It was when I saw a pictorial representation of Eden like the one at the top of the article Is God Science reading Genesis 1 'properly'?
Jeff W.
"Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness." " 2 Tim 2:19
John K.
For the record, I purchased the Creation Answers Book around 2001, and it was the first book I purchased after becoming truly saved. (I have always felt close to Christ, yet did not feel "committed" until 2001.)
Your ministry has been such a blessing to me in my walk, I cannot be sure I would be where I am today without CMI.
I keep you people in my prayers, and cannot wait to shake hands with Dr. Wieland at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa. [Dr Wieland is scheduled to present "One Human Family: The Bible, science, race and culture" on Wednesday 15 August 2012 commencing 7.00pm.]
God Bless your ministry, and those who serve.
Josef L.
Very ironic for a Christian pastor to try to claim that the "middle" is the best option to be at in cases where there are extremes. Think about it for a second: one extreme is that Jesus is the only way, another extreme is that Allah is the only way. So would this Christian pastor agree that Jesus was wrong in John 14:6 and claim that the best way is to worship both (or none)? I certainly would hope not.
Gintautas A.
A pastor commenting on evolution looks interesting. The use of authority in a false context. Maybe I am wrong, but how much a pastor can know about the science, I mean, from practice? Similarly, how much a person working in high tech can comment deeply in matters of agriculture.

When it comes to scientific issues, it is better that christian scientists comment on them, not pastors or priests. The scientist know how the scientific method works and where its limitations are. It is not enough just to read what science is. In practice, it is a completely different story when you get the first set of experimental data and select part of them for publishing a publication (publishing all of them often becomes impossible as the amount of data is usually so huge that papers would become unreadable). If you managed to pass the editors (now the editors of many journals reject the papers just on the ground that 'this does not fit the broad audience of their journal') , then you deal with reviewer comments (unfortunately they are never published, so people hardly get an idea on which basis papers can get rejected or accepted and what kind of discussions go there), participate in the competition for funding - then, and only then, one can get an idea how the science works in practice and what things are getting published. This published science then forms a certain view. It is very often a distorted view, especially now when the hunt for journal impact factors is in fashion.

Body of Christ has many parts, so each part must do its function. Fortunately, there are enough christian scientists to comment on the matter.

If the question of evolution comes up with a claim to be a scientific fact or a theory, then let us ask the guys who work in the field - how much such claim is justified within the limitations of the scientific method. How much of the claim is actually behind the scientific method and reflects the worldview. How much of what scientist say is science? People can have different worldviews, this is not a problem. God gave us freedom to choose, and unfortunately those choosing God are not in majority. A problem is to hide the world view behind the science. And how in general scientific claims are reliable? Then we get a forum like "www.creation.com".

David Catchpoole
Thank you Gintautas, for your supportive comments. However, while in principle your advice makes sense, we strongly argue that in practice it should not be left only to "Christian scientists" to speak out against falsehoods paraded as 'science'. That's what CMI's ministry is all about: equipping the saints to speak out against the evolutionary and millions-of-years ideas which become a stumbling block for so many. Hence our overt strategic charter of "linking and feeding".
Joel B.
As I reflect on my many years in the grace and mercy of God in Christ I have seen, over and over the "compromises" made from many a pulpit in ignorance for the sake of harmony and growth. Not knowing does not equate to truth and therefore should not be taught as such. CMI provides the tools by which we as soldiers and defenders of the Gospel and Truth of Christ can arm ourselves to confront the heresies boldly and unapologetically, one needs only to study and engage ANYONE who would try to have their "evolution and creation" cake and eat it too.
Bud B.
Revelation 3:15-16 (ESV)
“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth."
Jeff M.
Hello David

"..is there really such a thing as a 'moderate' option?"

I agree with you that there is not if one's stance is never to think that those who interpreted Jesus' words got it wrong. However, if like me, you regard the Bible as a source of inspiration, not to be taken literally, then it's very easy to take a mid position.

I think that the reason your Australian pastor compared you with Prof Dawkins is that your God so very well fits the description of the God about which Prof Dawkins rails against.

My God on the other hand tells me that the Bible is a superb source of moral tales to take notice of. So is the Koran and other religious books. He does not tell me that I am right and everyone else is wrong. He tells me to use the brain and reason He has given me. He tells me to be certain that He is there for me but not to dare be certain that I know His mind.

He is a pretty good friend to have by ones side.

Yours ever

David Catchpoole
Pardon, Jeff, but your unbelief is showing (again!—readers might like to see our response to your recently-submitted comment at the foot of our article about the black feathers of Archaeopteryx), and so is your illogicality in apparently endorsing both the Koran and the Bible.
They can't both be right about who Jesus is, for example. (See The Koran vs Genesis.)
And if you like the 'morality' of the Koran, I presume you have no problems with the Koranic injunctions to "fight and slay the Pagans wherever you find them" (9:5), the beheading/limb-amputations of unbelievers (8:12) and the deprivation and beating of wives (4:34)?
B. R.
There is in fact a moderate option; a non-literal interpretation of the Bible. You disagree with it, but that doesn't mean it isn't an option.
Insisting that every single word in the bible (except the name of the publisher) is absolute, infallible, 100% truth is extreme. So is insisting it was 100% fabricated to deceive and sedate the masses. Taking the Bible as a mainly metaphysical allegory is a moderate path between the two. That moderate path amounts to taking the bible as positing the truth of statements about the what exists beyond the world we live in (God exists, etc) and moral lessons (Love thy neighbor, etc) rather than treating it like a history text (an angel in a burning bush literally did speak to Moses, etc).
Most people would say that the moral lessons are the important, valuable, and beautiful part of the Bible (but not you of course). I'd think that's what being "for" Jesus means - believing the message of love, forgiveness, and compassion. Even Mark 10:6 is a (moral) lesson about fidelity.
I think it's very telling that you didn't for a second consider that option. Your group is characterized by a tunnel vision and stubborn one-mindedness because of your biblical-literalism. That is exactly why men and women of the cloth, christians, atheists and scientists all single you out as extremists.
David Catchpoole
The only correct interpretation of a sender's message is the one that the sender intended. So how did God (as per 2 Peter 1:20-21) intend us to read His Word? See Should Genesis be taken literally?
Chuck J.
I find your writings second only to the Bible for my instruction and as wonderful tools for witnessing. I find doubters, disbelievers, and compromisers just as ignorant of science as they are the Bible. You have helped me in both areas and I am thankful to God for putting you in my way.
Rudi J.
Christ is Lord, king of kings, creator of the universe, our savior and redeemer.

Can you find anything more satisfying than serving and glorifying the almighty God, who loved us so much that He gave us His beloved Son to die for us?

You should know how blessed you are having a ministry as CMI, glorifying Christ by building up confidence and faith in the saints, called by God.

In my country, nobody stands up for Jesus. They have all gone astray, trampling under foot the Glorious Gospel of the blessed God.

Shame on you, if you did not come to love Christ with all your heart.
Grahame G.
Extreme? Yes, I guess we are, really.

It was extreme for Jesus to go all the way to the cross. He asks us to be "extreme" by "crucifying ourselves", considering ourselves crucified", "dying daily", "taking up our cross and following him", not "looking back", not changing money in the temple but keeping it as a house of prayer and I could go on.

Extreme? Well, if it's extremely right, extremely holy, extremely godly, and not just moderately, then sure! Why would one choose to be anything else?

Especially if one holds the title "pastor" in an organisation called a "church"!

How God must grieve ...
Jack C.
In summary the way of an atheist is death, and that of a Jesus-believing theist is everlasting life. The choice is simple.
Chandrasekaran M.
When there are two disputing parties, often the middle ground stand is taken to bring about peace without looking into what the real issue is about. In the context here, the middle ground approach is like finding a middle ground between light and dark.

Logically refuting evolution history science is not extremism.

To take a middle ground with the evolution history science and theistic evolution on one hand and Jesus word “from the beginning of creation” on the other hand is like building your faith on sand instead of a rock.
Ian H.
John 16:13 'Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come'. It is our responsibility as Christians to examine ALL things in the light of scripture to determine the Truth. The Holy Spirit will reveal error.
When we bought a yacht we joined a sailing club, when we became Christians we joined a Church, there is a parallel there. It is our responsibility to examine how the beliefs of the Church match up with the Bible in practice and stand up for truth. In Christianity there are certain things that are non-negotiable, seek fellowship with like minded believers.

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