Does it matter?
Answers about origins are vital
“Excuse me sir! May I ask you a question? Do we come from chimpanzees?” The question was asked very quietly by a thin youngster of about 14 or 15 years old after a talk I had given at his school. The school was in a poverty-stricken township that would once have been designated as a residential area for ‘blacks’ only in South Africa. The school consists mainly of Afrikaans ‘coloured’ and Xhosa ‘black’ children. This young man was from the latter culture.
I had dealt with the question in my talk but again went over the fact that God’s inerrant Word tells us that we are created in the image of God. It is the reason why we participate in so many activities foreign to the animal kingdom. We love, laugh, communicate propositionally and abstractly, we invent, create art, write and play music and sing, we pray and have a ‘worship vacuum’ in our souls that only God in Christ Jesus can truly fill—all because of our unique status as being made in God’s image.
I reinforced the truth that our ancestors Adam and Eve were supernaturally created on the same day as the original ape kind or kinds, but were uniquely created by God as a separate, special kind—mankind. We are not evolved apes. I told him that like God, we are moral beings but fallen in the likeness of our ancestor Adam and therefore prone to sin.
He seemed satisfied with the answer and then whispered another question. “Where does AIDS come from?” I had dealt with the effects of the Curse in my talk as well but perhaps he had not followed or just needed reinforcing. I let him know that AIDS, like the myriad other viral, bacterial and mutational diseases experienced by people and animals in this world, are a result of the Fall and Curse due to Adam’s rebellion against his Creator. God had warned Adam of the consequences of disobeying the one restriction given to him as a moral being; not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil—“you shall surely die.” And so as Adam’s descendants we all come into this world spiritually dead and separated from our Creator; and physically dying through cancer, accident, AIDS, organ failure and ‘natural’ cell death, or the numerous other ways in which we are all perishing. I shared the good news with him of how we can have our relationship with God restored, and the promise of eternal life, through faith in God’s only begotten Son.
He again seemed to respond well to this information. We spoke a little longer and he then went off for the rest of his school day. As I drove away from the school, the connection between his two questions began to dawn on me. Given his very thin appearance, and the high prevalence of HIV infection in South Africa, he was very likely an innocent victim of this terrible virus that has devastated people all over the world. South Africa has the highest infection rate in the world, and in this particular area, about 30% of infants are born with HIV, transmitted mother to infant.1 After years of obfuscation, denial, untold suffering and countless deaths, only in 2009 did the South African ANC government eventually roll out a comprehensive ARV (anti-retroviral) drug campaign for those infected.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), left untreated, develops into acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and is believed to originally be of simian origin. HIV-1 in particular has been traced to chimpanzees in Southern Cameroon, West Africa. It is thought to have crossed to humans from the local ‘bush meat’ practice (humans eating meat from monkeys and apes) and continued to mutate and spread rapidly due to rampant sexual promiscuity.
The contagion of AIDS in South Africa had many contributing factors. A traditional culture of polygamy, still practised by those with the means, plays a major role. The South African president Jacob Zuma has 4 ‘wives’ currently (two others divorced him), and has been publicly exposed for promiscuous sexual activity outside of his ‘traditional marriages’. A traditional dowry system also prevents most of the poor from ever entering into a stable, long-term, monogamous relationship as God intended.
The apartheid system of the previous government kept wives and families in their traditional rural areas while allowing men to come to the cities to work in the mines and industry. These men would only see their wives once a year, contributing to rampant prostitution and sexual perversion in the cities. We can see how a Christian worldview would mitigate against the destruction caused by these and other factors.
As a ministry we are often asked why origins matter? Does it matter how and when God created the universe and life? Does it really matter if God used evolution to create? Why concentrate on the issue of origins, surely the Gospel is the most important thing? To this young man, origins matter! He was obviously putting together the school curriculum that today requires indoctrination in the myth that we have evolved from ape like ancestors over hundreds of thousands of years, and the origin of AIDS from apes, our relatives according to evolution.
A consistent atheist and evolutionist would have to answer those questions by a shrug of the shoulders and say that’s just the way things are. Disease, suffering and death are the processes that got us here; from atoms to apes to people with AIDS. Naturalistic evolution cannot even provide an absolute basis on which to state that AIDS is bad, the notion of natural evil. It just is. Random, material processes of time and chance cannot give us an objective foundation for the concept of evil.
A Christian compromising with the myth of evolution, a creation story of how we got here without God, would have to answer him that disease, suffering, debilitating viruses and death have always been a part of God’s creation. In fact they are God’s mechanism to create. He would have to invoke some shambolic concoction of long ages, animal suffering, human-like apes or ape-like humans (pre-Adamites), all showing signs in their fossilised forms of violence, carnivory and disease, viruses and death long before Adam and therefore before sin. The notion that the death warned of by God in Genesis chapter 2 only applied to humans is a nonsense if the same viruses in animals also cause the suffering and death of humans, as is the case with HIV. In short, if God used evolution to create, death has always existed and “there is no moral answer to the problem of evil and cruelty. Because man, whether somehow created by a curious thing called god or kicked up out of the slime by chance, has always been in this dilemma, the dilemma is part of what being ‘man’ is. And if this is what man intrinsically is, and he has always been like this, then the French art historian and poet Baudelaire is right when he says, ‘If there is a God, he is the devil.’”2
Does the question of the origin of man and apes and AIDS matter? They matter to this young man! His community has been devastated by this disease. And possibly his own life, at this young age, is threatened by it. Christians have in the Bible an eye-witness, rational, scientifically consistent and coherent history of the universe, including the origin of man and of death. The fact that any would knowingly conform to the worldly philosophy of death inherent in any form of Darwinism (or its corollary of eons of history for life on earth) is a tragedy and a shame.