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The situation in Australia about which this article sounds the alarm is an increasing global phenomenon. We trust it helps believers everywhere to be on the alert.

Tabor’s choice

A leading evangelical institution runs evolution-promoting seminars across Australia—and look who's funding the campaign...

by and Carl Wieland

Published: 29 March 2012 (GMT+10)
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According to a well-known Christian training institution in Australia, when it comes to science and faith, there’s no choice to be made, and they’d like everyone to know that. Secular newspapers helpfully gave free publicity to Tabor’s nation-wide upcoming public seminars:

“This month Tabor Adelaide, a multidenominational Christian education centre, will host a series of free seminars around the country on God and science. The workshops aim to ‘dispel the myth’ that people have to make a choice between science and faith.”1

On the face of it, that is almost something that we at Creation Ministries International would say is our own charter, assuming that by ‘science’ Tabor means what we refer to as operational or experimental science, and that ‘faith’ refers to faith in the God of the Bible.

Alas, further reading of the newspaper articles promoting Tabor’s free public seminar series indicates that their usage of the term ‘science’ includes the claimed evolutionary ‘history’ which secularists parade as science. That is clear from the views of one of the seminar presenters, Rev. Dr Graham Buxton, Inaugural Director of Tabor’s new GCRI (Graeme Clark Research Institute2 —ostensibly set up to be of “Christian service to the community” particularly regarding the “public debate” re “science and faith”):

“Dr Buxton said that he believed God used a Big Bang and evolution to create the world. ‘There is no reason why someone can’t have a theistic view of evolution,’ Dr Buxton said. ‘I don’t have any problems with seeing a God who was involved and actually set in the conditions of the Big Bang everything that was necessary for the unfolding of the universe through the evolutionary process.’”3

Actually, if by ‘God’ they mean the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the father of our Lord Jesus Christ who reveals Himself in the pages of His Holy Word, there are plenty of reasons why someone can’t have a theistic view of evolution (unless they illogically crave a mindset hopelessly divided against itself—cf. Mark 12:30).

First, evolution, as taught in school and university textbooks,4 does not invoke any need for a creator to start, let alone steer, the ‘process’.

Second, textbook evolution denies the existence of an actual spirit realm (instead dismissing it as spirit-invoking delusions of brain chemistry5)—see Evolution: the ultimate antidote to spirituality.

Third, the General Theory of Evolution certainly rules out any possibility of a creator who is the God of the Bible, given the multiplicity of contradictions between it and what the Bible says about cosmology (e.g. earth before stars), geology (e.g. water-covered earth before dry land appeared), biology (e.g. fruit trees before fish), paleontology (e.g. man appeared before fossils) and anthropology (e.g. horticulture and agriculture before nomadic hunter-gathering).

Perhaps Dr Buxton would be less overt about his faith in a ‘Big Bang’ if he was aware that even its secular physicist advocates are shrinking in number, given its increasingly evident failures to fit the known facts of the universe.6 (In fact, the ‘Big Bang’ would likely have been completely abandoned by today’s crop of physicists if only they could have concocted some other godless idea of beginnings to take its place.)

However, overarching all of these reasons why ‘theistic evolution’ is unsustainable even as a concept are the theologically destructive implications for Jesus’ redemptive death on the Cross if evolution is accepted by Christians. Because evolution puts pain and carnivory, death and thorns, before man (as do all long-age views).

In stark contrast to the evolutionary timeline, the Bible says the creation was cursed with death, pain and thorns only after the first man, Adam, sinned, after the completed creation had been declared by God to be “very good” (Genesis 1:31). And thankfully, because of the perfect sacrifice of the “last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45) on the Cross, Christians can look forward to the new heavens and new earth where there’ll be no more consequences of the Curse (Revelation 21:1,4; 22:3).

It’s only in the light of the biblical account of there being no death before Adam’s sin, that the shedding of blood because of sin makes sense (Hebrews 9:22)—with Jesus’ death on the Cross being the perfect sinless sacrifice; the only way man can be redeemed (Hebrews 10:4,10).

But if “God used evolution” as Dr Buxton says, then there were millions of years of blood-letting before Adam’s sin—in which case, why the Bible’s emphasis on the shedding of blood because of sin? God-used-evolution ideas completely destroy the whole basis for the Atonement. Also, if evolution is the means God uses to create, then the supposedly ongoing ‘evolutionary process’ today means that the creation is not yet completed. And because death (and disease and suffering) has been there all along, it means the creation has never been cursed because of man’s sin, therefore … what was Jesus’ death on the Cross all about? What’s the connection with the Genesis 3:16 (post-Curse) prophecy and the Romans 8:19–22 statement that the creation was “subjected to futility” and is “in bondage to decay”? Or the New Heavens and New Earth promised in Revelation, where death will be no more because “there will be no more curse”?

Equally serious for the credibility of the Bible and its Gospel message is that Jesus and the Apostle Paul obviously believed in a real Adam and Eve, the global Flood, a real Noah—and Jesus even believed in a young world, as admitted by a former head of ISCAST who then claimed Jesus did not know enough science(!) ISCAST is one of the theistic evolutionary organizations being promoted by Tabor. (For a summary of the way in which the NT affirms Genesis as history, see The Use of Genesis in the New Testament.)

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki: “Both mindsets in the same skull”

A newspaper article promoting the Tabor seminars says that “One of the key messages is there are plenty of scientists who are Christians”, and it quotes several well-known scientists in apparent support of that view. For example, the anticreationist science commentator and University of Sydney physicist, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki:

“Science depends 100 per cent on facts and zero on faith. Religion depends 100 per cent on faith and zero on facts. They are completely separate ways of thinking and you can carry both mindsets in the same skull.”

Actually, there are plenty of university-educated young people who admire ‘Dr Karl’ very much, but would disagree with him on that point. That’s because they know from painful experience that it’s not logically possible, and consequently have left the church, having been incorrectly taught that the ‘facts’ of science support evolution. Dr Graham Buxton might claim to be able to hold two mutually exclusive thoughts in the same skull, but most rational people can’t, and rightly so. Evolution utterly dismantles, and is fatally devastating to, the Gospel message of Christ.

People do have to make a choice

Young people who leave the church over the creation/evolution issue are correct in saying they were confronted with a terrible choice—Jesus or evolution? The tragedy is that they have (hopefully only temporarily) made the wrong choice; a choice based on incorrect and incomplete information. As CMI’s online and traditional print publications demonstrate, the observed facts of science (as opposed to creatively invented stories by scientists about what might have happened before they were born) support the Bible’s (unchanging) account of history, not evolution’s (ever-changing) storyline.

Thus, armed with this information, people can make an informed choice.

That’s why CMI, thanks to our Christian donors, sends out speakers from its panel of presenters to address churches and people at free public seminars on the creation/evolution issue, drawing the public’s attention to the availability and ever-growing armory of Bible-affirming materials across the range of relevant scientific disciplines. To let them know that the average intelligent person’s assessment of there being a contradiction between evolution and Christianity is correct, but that biblical creation, not evolution, is the rational choice.

Tabor’s campaign

The Tabor nationwide seminar series is targeted at two audiences in particular: school teachers and church leaders. The Tabor website7 has promotional brochures for each of the two seminar series targeting these groups:

God and Science: In the Classroom8

God and Science: In the Pulpit9

The promotional brochures are quite similar to each other in layout, with identical background/illustration (see Box: The power of the picture), with the only significant differences being minor alterations in the strategic wording intended for the target audience. E.g. from the Classroom brochure:

“Christian schoolteachers find themselves in a unique role as those who speak with authority in the classroom and at times they come across questions about science and faith they may not have the resources to answer. Teachers need to know how to respond to genuine questions from their students in an informed and intelligent way.

“The debate about creation and evolution remains a contentious issue, and contemporary concerns coupled with technological advances often add to the dilemma for many young Christian people.”

Cf. the Pulpit brochure:

“Christian leaders find themselves in a unique role as those who speak with authority in the congregation and come across questions about science and faith they may not have the resources to answer. Christian leaders need to know how to respond to genuine questions from their congregational members in an informed and pastoral manner.

“The debate about creation and evolution remains a contentious issue, and contemporary concerns coupled with technological advances often add to the dilemma for many Christians.”

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Sounding the alarm (again!)

Who is behind the Tabor campaign of free public seminars nation-wide? The two promotional brochures say the seminar series is:

An initiative of the Graeme Clark Research Institute at Tabor Adelaide along with the John Templeton Foundation and ISCAST

Long-time readers of our website will recognize here the warning signs (if any were needed) as to the evolution-endorsing content of the seminars. We have long warned of the dangers associated with Bible colleges receiving funding from the Templeton Foundation, and of the nebulous ‘faith’ of many Templeton awardees (e.g. physicist and author of The Mind of God, Paul Davies10—one of the scientists acclaimed and quoted by the aforementioned newspaper article promoting these Tabor seminars).

Similarly we have sounded the alarm about Bible colleges with too-close affinities with ISCAST (whose leaders include those who claim that Jesus made mistakes in his teaching)—including warning of Tabor’s employment of ISCASTian Rev. Dr Mark Worthing, who is one of the co-presenters of this latest seminar series with Graham Buxton.

When we do so, of course, there is a real danger of being seen as harsh or unnecessarily critical towards our Christian brothers. But this concerns an issue, not personalities. And it is not some minor issue of doctrine or practice; the very core and heart of the Gospel is at stake. The only way to make the evolutionary worldview compatible with biblical theism is to so radically alter the understanding of the entry of sin and death into the universe that the Gospel is not only gutted, it is in any rational sense abandoned. The same words might be used, like ‘salvation’ and so on, but their meaning can no longer be related to the way in which the Bible uses them to relay the ‘“faith that was once for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 1:3).

And what we have here are not folk who have just ‘by default’ accepted evolution without understanding what it does to biblical faith (like the founding chairman of our ministry, Prof. John Rendle-Short, who was a theistic evolutionist for some 30 years, though never comfortable); we are talking about a conscious, institutional and organized decision to actively promote this major overturning of the Bible’s ‘big picture’ of reality: an originally good world, ruined by sin, to be restored to a future sinless, deathless paradise through Christ’s sacrificial death.

Here’s a sample of our past articles sounding such warnings (Worthing is the ‘alien advanced’ theologian referred to in article #3):

We’re sorry to have to once again ‘sound the alarm’, in hopes that the many earnest Christians who support Tabor might use their lobbying influence to good effect.11 And the need is urgent, because Tabor is indeed ‘on a slippery slope’—and has been for some time. Just a week before this article was published, one of us received a letter from a supporter talking about how many years ago, though a Christian—even a medical missionary—he was continually troubled by evolution, and could never reconcile it with the Gospel, but did not know how to hold what the Bible so clearly taught. Until a lecture by one of us at Tabor, many years ago, he says, “broke the deadlock … I remember coming away feeling free for the first time to believe the whole Bible message unreservedly.” Back then, Tabor supported the straightforward view of Genesis creation. But for quite a few years now, sadly, such a message has been less than welcome in its corridors, and now there is an overt, in-your-face promotion of views that, if consistently followed, can only lead in the same Christ-less direction as that taken earlier by Rev. John Spong.

However, we don’t believe it’s impossible yet for Tabor to recognize the decline, and halt it by actively turning the institution around to re-establish orthodoxy as happened in the USA with the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. But Tabor are going to have to choose which way they want to go.

Jesus or evolution?

Will it be Jesus (not just the word ‘Jesus’, but the real biblical Jesus, including what He taught and believed)—or evolution? It’s Tabor’s choice.


The power of the picture

The illustrative background to the text on one side of the promotional brochures7,8 for the Tabor seminar series uses images of operational science in the present, such as complex mathematical formulae, and an illustration in one corner obviously chosen for its ready recognition as an ‘icon’ of our supposed evolutionary past. Three primate skeletons, each carefully positioned in an upright stance, and presented as a progression from left to right (pictured).

Perhaps the illustrators might have been less inclined to use such an ‘iconic’ image, if they had been aware of what leading paleoanthropologist Dr Bernard Wood, a leading authority on human evolution, had said about such a ‘progression’:

“There is a popular image of human evolution that you’ll find all over the place, from the backs of cereal packets to advertisements for expensive scientific equipment. On the left of the picture there’s an ape—stocky, jutting jaw, hunched in the knuckle-walking position. On the right, a man—graceful, high forehead, striding purposefully into the future. Between the two is a succession of figures that become ever more like humans, as the shoulders start to pull back, the torso slims down, the arms retract, the legs extend, the cranium expands and the chin recedes. Our progress from ape to human looks so smooth, so tidy. It’s such a beguiling image that even the experts are loath to let it go. But it is an illusion.”12

Sharp-eyed readers alert to the source reference of that quote will note that Dr Wood wrote that in 2002. Might there have been evidence since then to overcome Dr Wood’s skepticism? Not so. None of the much-heralded ape-man ‘discoveries’ in the decade since Wood made that admission in New Scientist have done anything to change his view. He recently wrote:

“The origin of our own genus remains frustratingly unclear.”13

Sadly, people glancing at Tabor’s promotional brochures for the God and Science series might presume that the evidential-looking skeletons so deceptively positioned and arranged are ‘proof’ of the ‘fact’ of evolution. Such is the power of a picture.

If only they knew the truth.

References

  1. Peddie, C., A leap of faith with science and God, The Advertiser (Adelaide), 2 March 2012, news.com.au Return to text.
  2. Named after the distinguished Australian scientist and surgeon who pioneered the multi-channel cochlear implant. Return to text.
  3. Bowdon, T., Faith is not an exact science, The Advertiser (Adelaide), 27 February 2012, accessed via Anglican Communion News Service—Digest News, www.anglicancommunion.org, 29 February 2012. Return to text.
  4. See DVD presentation by Dr Don Batten: How textbooks mislead. Return to text.
  5. Hence the title of Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion—see CMI’s review. Return to text.
  6. Lerner, E., Bucking the big bang, New Scientist 182(2448)20, 22 May 2004. See also the book by Alex Williams and Dr John Hartnett, Dismantling the big bang. Return to text.
  7. GCRI—God and Science seminar, http://taboradelaide.edu.au/about/gcri_godandscienceseminar.php, last accessed 26 March 2012. Return to text.
  8. http://taboradelaide.edu.au/downloads/downloads_about/downloads_gcri/GCRI_GodAndScience_Teachers.pdf Return to text.
  9. http://taboradelaide.edu.au/downloads/downloads_about/downloads_gcri/GCRI_GodAndScience_Leaders.pdf Return to text.
  10. Paul Davies abandoned conventional Christian beliefs as a teenager when the local vicar could not answer his questions about creation and the universe. The Australian, 9 March 1995, p. 1. Return to text.
  11. The last time we ‘went public’ about Tabor and evolutionary compromise, it seems it did indeed galvanize many of Tabor’s supporters to contact the institution’s management with their concerns. We actually received correspondence directly from Tabor leadership as a result. Unfortunately, that correspondence offered little in the way of hope that Tabor might re-evaluate their direction. Rather, they defensively tried to fob us off in their letter to us by saying that Tabor has “never taught atheistic evolution”—as if theistic evolution is okay for a “Scripture-based” college to teach. As the earlier part of this article makes clear, ‘Christian theistic evolution’ is an oxymoron. Return to text.
  12. Wood, B., “Who are we?” New Scientist 176(2366):44–47, 26 October 2002. Return to text.
  13. Wood, B., Did early Homo migrate “out of ” or “in to” Africa?, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 2011; published ahead of print 15 June 2011, doi:10.1073/pnas.1107724108. Return to text.