Strong reaction to Steve Irwin report
16–17 September 2006
Dr Catchpoole’s article The stingray of death: The tragic end of the life of ‘Crocodile Hunter’ Steve Irwin has been one of the most viewed articles on the new CMI site. One biologist from the UK commented:
I’ve just read David’s article and it’s excellent. Great teaching, very interesting (he’s even swum over stingrays himself!), very topical, very engaging.
A supporter in Brisbane said:
Well balanced, good science, very nice.
Daniel Parkes, FCET (Fellowship of Christian Engineers and Technologists www.fcet.org) wrote;
Great article on the ‘croc hunter’ (The Stingray of Death).
Keep up the good work!
There was also some negative feedback, which will be addressed below (response by Jonathan Sarfati and David Catchpoole), grouped by topic. We don’t claim infallibility to our articles (just to the Bible in its original autographs!), so the article was modified slightly in response to some feedback. ‘No, though a man be wise, ’tis no shame for him to learn many things, and to bend in season.’ (Sophocles, Antigone, 442 BC).
Just because he was an evolutionist, it doesn’t follow that he wasn’t a Christian
A number of correspondents pressed this point, e.g.:
It is obvious he believed the evolution he had been taught by others, and was not a creationist, however you do not need to be a creationist to be saved. I cannot believe that any human can cast aspersions on the faith of this man who did so much to save these creatures God created. Only God knows Steve’s heart condition. —KS, Australia
KS and other correspondents who wrote on this theme are quite right in saying that just because someone believes evolution doesn’t mean he/she is not a Christian, and we never claimed otherwise. Indeed, both of us have said just that in a recent article, ‘Schweitzer’s Dangerous Discovery’.
Note that we don’t claim that one can’t be a Christian and a long-ager. Many people are saved despite ‘blessed inconsistency’—there is no hint in the Bible that the ability to hold mutually contrary thoughts in the same skull is an unforgivable sin. See also:
- Is it possible to be a Christian and an evolutionist? A leading creationist answers an often-asked question
- The big picture: Being wrong about the six days of creation does not automatically mean someone is not a Christian. But if you think that makes it unimportant, stand back and look at the big picture … .
- Do I have to believe in a literal creation to be a Christian?
We also agree that, simply on the basis of what we’ve heard of him in his public life, we can’t know for sure where Steve Irwin is right now—hence we tried to take great care in wording the article to that effect.
I felt it contained judgemental implications. —KS, Australia
With all due respect, we were trying to make teaching points rather than judging the man. But this is a good time to address a common misapprehension that non-judgmentalism is the highest goal for a Christian. Jesus condemned only hypocritical judgment, as is clear from Matthew 7:1–5:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Indeed, Jesus commanded judgment in John 7:24, a passage we hear much less about:
“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with righteous judgment.”
Indeed, KS’s statement was in itself a judgment. And if we are not supposed to judge, then how can we judge anything as ‘good’—including non-judgmentalism? This is serious (quite apart from KS’s letter), because judgmental skeptics hypocritically misapply the ‘judge not’ passage to marginalize Christians, more often than any other Scripture. See also The tyranny of ‘tolerance’.
As for judging or ‘condemning’ people (not that this was the purpose of the article), unbelievers are already condemned according to Jesus Himself (John 3:18); we are merely passing on the message (that only believers can be saved), so don’t kill the messenger (cf. ‘no-one delights in the bearer of bad news,’ Sophocles, Antigone).
You shouldn’t have mentioned his wife. If Steve was not a believer, then, because you mentioned his wife, readers can see that Terri must have disobeyed the commandment to ‘be not unequally yoked with an unbeliever’. That comes across as being very judgmental.—EL, Australia.
The comments above about judging in general apply, but in this specific case, we fail to see the problem. We just presented the facts, which are not secret and not derogatory; what people do with the facts is their business. In any case, we didn’t say (nor do we know) anything about whether Mrs Irwin was a Christian before or after marriage; the command in 2 Corinthians 6:14 applies to Christians entering into marriage with an unbeliever. One Blood ch. 5 states:
[The] marriage that God says we should not enter into is when a child of the Last Adam (one who is a new creation in Christ—a Christian) marries one who is an unconverted child of the First Adam (one who is dead in trespasses and sin—a non-Christian).
But if a Christian is already married to an unbeliever (say if the conversion occurs after marriage, or if a Christian has disobeyed the above), then the believer should remain married as long as the unbeliever consents to live together (1 Corinthians 7:12–15).
Exploiting Steve’s death?
I am writing to express my discontent at your article titled “The stingray of death” attached to the Creation Ministries newsletter.
In my view, the article seeks to exploit a tragedy to advance the message of Creation Ministries. As well as the moral issues associated with such propaganda, the content of the article was clumsy, cold and inappropriate. Unworthy of a great cause such as yours.
I apologise if this email is abrupt. I have followed your cause for some time and have even created small networks for friends who are like minded. We were saddened at the news and felt that perhaps there was a missed opportunity while Mr Irwin was alive to have him listen to your material.
Just like Mr Irwin, your strength lies with the knowledge you can divulge about science and nature. I can understand that at times it may feel as if you have to shock in order to have people listen.
Evolution is indeed entrenched in the greater culture.
Don’t underestimate your own message and know that you have friends out there with you.
I trust you will accept this email with the good intentions in which it is intended.
For sure, we did, and were reminded of ‘Faithful are the wounds of a friend’ (Proverbs 27:6). However, a tragedy occurred, many people wanted to know what we thought and expected a comment. By definition, any article about the tragedy could have been accused of ‘exploiting’ it. But we were also most aware that the country was in shock, and Steve had left behind a grieving father, wife and children. So we were appalled by the spitefulness of the rabid feminist Germaine Greer (see Ref. 5 in the ‘stingray of death’ article) and her ilk.
Incidentally, we are well aware of Bible-believing Christians who have mailed CMI materials to Steve Irwin in the past. Also, one of us [DC], immediately after presenting a creation seminar at a Sunshine Coast church in 2004, was personally approached afterwards by two employees of Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo (located nearby). So it seems that Steve Irwin had reasonable opportunity to ‘listen’ to our material and discuss the issues with creationists—it was just a matter of whether he wanted to (or in fact did) avail himself of that opportunity.
Comments: Hi there, am a huge fan of your ministry and a subscriber of Creation magazine. I just read the article on Steve Irwin with my wife, and we are a bit confused as to what you’re trying to say there. It read to us as being quite callous to the death of Irwin, especially in the second half where it seemed to bash him as promoting wrong family values and not being Christian. I’m sure that cannot have been your intention, but it worries me to imagine how some other people who do not know of your good intentions might construe the article as an attack on the man.
Perhaps I am over-reacting, so take from my e-mail what you will. In any case, God bless your ministry. I shall continue to look forward to more articles and insight.
MW, New Zealand
Another case of ‘Faithful are the wounds of a friend’. As you say, it was not our intention to ‘bash’ anyone. But we also wanted to avoid the opposite extreme of hagiography.
For the record, we think that Australia Zoo is very well organized and informative (apart from the annoying evolutionary falsehoods), and it was obvious that Steve really cared about animals. A correspondent from Australia wrote:
I never heard Steve speak out against the Christian teaching. I never heard him blaspheme or curse either. As much as Steve had a public profile, and yes, may have referred to evolutionary thought, he also referred to a creator in some of his footage, indeed often referring to ‘God’s creatures’.
We also appreciated the fact that a famous Aussie icon was a faithful husband and loving father, and not a womanizer, druggie or alcoholic like too many other celebrities that come to mind. But about the reference to God, this is not conclusive—compare Physicists’ God-talk.
Animals and creation
One correspondent objected:
I may be speaking in ignorance, having only skimmed your articles, but saying ‘Parents can correct this by pointing out that God breathed life into man and gave us dominion over the animal kingdom’ in response to ‘Steve continually points out that animals are really better than people’ seems a little brash and insensitive.
This was actually not written by us, but a quoted extract from the movie review by ChristianAnswers.Net, which they wrote back in 2002. Thus they are not DC’s words, although the review seems accurate. And if people are told that they are no better than animals, it should not be surprising that they kill or rape like animals; not that Steve would have thought things through to the same conclusion as many evolutionists have. See:
- Living like animals
- The Creation Basis For Morality
- How to build a bomb in the public school system
- Bomb-building vs. the biblical foundation
- Rape and evolution
- Morality and Ethics Q&A
Our correspondent then asked:
While Steve was alive, his fearless actions supported ‘dominion over the animal kingdom’ — Steve was evidence to prove this portion of scripture. But, with the way he died, how can we use such a statement as a parental correction?
The Dominion Mandate of Genesis 1:28 has not been revoked; Jesus for example affirmed that while God cares for sparrows, a human is far more valuable than many of them (Matthew 10:29–31). This entails that although Steve’s favourite (presumably somewhat tongue-in-cheek) slogan was ‘Crocs rule’, it is God who rules and has delegated authority to mankind over the rest of creation. See again Earth Day: Is Christianity to blame for environment problems?
However, as explained in the article, because of the Fall, this has been marred by the Curse on creation. In the events leading up to the Fall, the participants reversed the God-given hierarchy. That is, in the Bible, naming something is an exercise of authority. Thus God had authority over man, who had authority over the woman and animals that he named (Genesis 2:19–23; see also ‘Female inferiority’ raises questions for refutation of anti-woman claims). God had also explicitly given both man and woman authority over the rest of creation in Gen. 1:28.
In the Fall, this was reversed; the serpent (animal) instructed the woman, who instructed the man, who disobeyed God. God’s judgment reflected this: the serpent would be lower than the other animals, the woman would desire her husband in the same way sin desired Cain (in both cases the Hebrew word is teshûqah תשוקה), and the creation would rebel against Adam until his body returned to it (Genesis 3).
Finally, another comment from KS:
However I do believe people need to explain to their kids that it is Steve’s opinion that animals are more important, however if you can see that statement from his perspective; He was trying to stop people from thinking they were the most important thing in the world, and that animals do matter, and their habitats need to be protected. — KS
God declared the creation ‘good’ before He created man, so there is intrinsic goodness to the non-human part of creation. However, Jesus made it clear that humans are more important than animals, but evolutionary teaching has undermined that. One important way is the clear violation of God’s directive to Noah and thus all mankind (his descendants)—which has never been revoked—that any individual animal that kills a human is to be put to death (Genesis 9:5–6). But in a perversion of biblical morality, a shark or croc is often protected even if it is a proven mankiller (most people don’t mind killing mosquitoes or bacteria though, even though there are exceptions here as well). This is often accompanied by nonsensical statements that the deaths occurred in ‘the animal’s territory’ where ‘humans were the intruders’. No, God put the entire natural creation—including the marine creatures (Genesis 1:28)—under human dominion. Of course, this implies good stewardship, not a licence to ravage and exploit. During his life, Steve Irwin ‘put his money where his mouth is’ and bought large tracts of wilderness land to be able to help preserve the natural wonder and beauty of creation for others.