Saturday, 1 October 2016

Book Review: An insidious assault upon biblical origins

Book Review: 

How I Changed my Mind about Evolution: Evangelicals reflect on faith and science
Editors: Applegate, K. and Stump, J.B.
Publisher: Monarch Books (Lion Hudson plc), Oxford, 2016.
Pages: 196.  Price: £10.99

This book is a collection of twenty five short autobiographies by people who claim to be evangelicals, yet have accepted “evolutionary creation” (aka theistic evolution) as an explanation for origins. This position involves a rejection of Scriptural authority and Dr D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones summed up such claimants:

“…instead of submitting themselves to the Scripture, they turn to science, to philosophy, or to one of a number of other disciplines, and their position is determined by these things. They allow reason to determine what they believe instead of how they believe and how they think.”[i]

Some of the authors apparently accepted the biblical position on creation until in their higher education they encountered compromising Christian theologians. An uncritical attitude towards these theologians and a mistaken notion that they represent the historic Reformed tradition swayed their worldview towards theistic evolution.[ii] John Calvin’s name is used to buttress old earth creation (page 26), although in reality he was strongly opposed to those who questioned the timeframe that Genesis provides, noting that the Spirit Himself testifies against them:

 “…if men wish to cling to their knowledge and judgement, it will be incredible to them that the world was created six thousand years ago. For what was God doing from all eternity? In fact, shallow and imaginative people will never understand what the Holy Spirit gives witness to because they will always have their own answers.”[iii]

The grammatical-historical interpretation of Genesis, which necessarily entails a young cosmos, is dismissed as an “utter novelty” (page 25) based on Ronald Number’s biased and selective history.[iv] Many creationists have ably demonstrated that Genesis 1-11 is a historical narrative[v], and from the second century A.D. Christians were refuting the notion that our cosmos is extremely ancient (or even eternal) when countering Greek philosophers.

Other authors in the book argue that Genesis chapter 1 employs simple, “ancient science”, which they say is now known to be just plain wrong. However, there is a vast difference between simplification and fabrication! Whilst it is important not to neglect Hebrew idiom and culture, this can easily be taken too far. There is no “ancient science” in Genesis one. Rather, the infinite, timeless Author is accommodating his timeless truth to us in every age. Many early cosmogonies, such as those from Egypt, are probably pagan corruptions of the Genesis Flood narrative. One author writes: “it is fair to say that no human knows what the meaning of Genesis 1 and 2 was precisely intended to be.” (page 73) Such statements directly contradict the doctrine of Scriptural perspicuity and ultimately end in scepticism concerning special revelation as a whole. Bear in mind that even the Lord Jesus Christ himself, Scripture's ultimate Author, would fall foul of this glib assertion, because he is fully human as well as fully divine!

Some of the authors felt that by maintaining a young cosmos against the tide of scholarship and peer pressure they were interpreting Scripture subjectively. However, the Holy Spirit is our interpreter, and being God-breathed, the Scriptures are our sole and final authority in all matters which they touch upon. Aberrant and novel interpretations of Scripture, which are motivated more by extra-biblical speculations than by careful exegetical and historical study, should not be accepted. Returning to Dr Lloyd-Jones’ neglected warnings:

[Such people] “…are saying that there are, as it were, two great authorities and two means of revelation: one of them is Scripture and the other is nature…so you go to the Scriptures for matters concerning your soul, but you do not go to them to seek God’s other revelation of Himself in nature. For that, you go to science. You are familiar with this view which, it seems to me, is not only extremely dangerous, but tends to undermine our whole [evangelical] position. We have got to contest it, and contest it very strongly.”[vi]

Origins science, unlike operational science, is not demonstrable in a laboratory and some of the authors appear naïve in accepting what are merely fallible, changing opinions and assumptions. Many unprovable, tacit assumptions and speculations are thoroughly unbiblical. Spiritual discernment is required and those evangelicals critical of biblical creationism should at least inform themselves about what creationists actually believe regarding the limits of biological variation (pp. 37-38), the origins of entropy (p. 126), and the identity of Cain’s wife! (p. 139).

Commendably, throughout the book we are encouraged to give God glory and praise for his wonderful and awe-inspiring world. Yet in the worldview of ‘evolutionary creation’ the Fall had very little effect on animals and although evolution by natural selection is described as “profound”, “beautiful” and “elegant”, its mechanism involves death, disease, bloodshed and untold animal suffering as part of the creative process. How such monstrous cruelty could be attributed to the loving Creator of the Bible, who gave His divine stamp of approval no less than seven times in Genesis one, is left unanswered.

Most of the authors were once biblical creationists and describe their former approach (or that of their mentors) in very critical terms: “selective” (p.23), “quite aberrant” and “narrow” (p.26), “afraid” (p.33), “scared to death” (p.36), “growing” yet “at war with science” (p.65), “unworkable” “wishful thinking” (p.66), “declaring personal infallibility” (p.67), displaying “misinformed religious fervour” (p.74), “bad science, shoddy thinking, false claims and misguided ideas” and “…a wrong interpretation of the Bible” (p.93), “intellectual slackers” (p.95), “uncritical” (p.99), “risk-averse” (p.104), “spoon-fed” (p.105), “flawed” (p.110), “gerrymandering” (p.117), “nervous” (p.120), “increasingly absurd” (p.140), “rigid” (p.156), “a fabrication of religionists” (p.174), “a caricature” which  we will “face judgement for” and “our own subculture of alternative science” (p.175). In short, generally “hung up” (p.192).

Other authors contradict these negative jibes and put-downs. One author writes that “many have lost their faith over evolution. It is quite understandable that many churches are worried about their young people studying biology in secular universities.” Another author states: “…Christians who are uncomfortable with any version of evolution – even evolutionary creationism – are not necessarily unintelligent, naïve or obstinate.” For a book full of unpleasant remarks about those who profess true doctrine, this is an interesting admission!

A battle is raging for the hearts and minds of our young people and sadly many who are being led astray and have abandoned Scriptural authority may welcome this book as it will seemingly confirm them in their errors. If Bible-believing evangelicals read the book, they should do so with great caution.

[i] Lloyd-Jones, D.M. (1992). What is an Evangelical? The Banner of Truth Trust, p.49.
[ii] Chapters 1-3 of Coming to Grips with Genesis by Mortenson and Ury contain a helpful rebuttal of this pseudo-historical idea. Also cf. Sarfati, J. (2004). Refuting Compromise. USA: Master Books.
[iii] Calvin, J. (1559), translated by McGregor, R.R. (2009). Sermons on Genesis: Chapters 1-11. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust.
[iv] Numbers, R. (2006). The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism. Harvard University Press.
[v] See, for instance: Beeke, J.R. (2013). What Did the Reformers Believe about the Age of the Earth? In: Ham, K. (Ed.) The New Answers Book 4, Master Books, pp.101-110; Peet, J.H.J. (2013). Does the Bible require a belief in ‘special creation’? DayOne Publications, pp.43-55; Patrick, J. (2013). The Genre and Goals of Genesis 1-11, Origins #57 [Part 1, pp.14-17] and Origins #58 [Part 2, pp.8-11]. Journal of The Biblical Creation Society.
[vi] Lloyd-Jones, D.M. Op. Cit. p.73

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