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The Christadelphian | February 2009

In the magazine this month:

  • Editorial Fellowship in the Gospel: 6 – The kingdom in Israel
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Sunday morning “Coping with the inequalities of life” | Trevor A. Pritchard
  • In the image of God 12 – The glory of God and the glory of man | Michael Edgecombe, Rebecca Lines, Russell Taylor
  • What’s remarkable about that? | Barry Lambsdown
  • Pause and ponder 25 – Married in the Lord, part 8: Making a happy marriage | Stephen Whitehouse
  • Trained to do battle | John Dunning
  • Theocracy: past, present and future | I. T. Rees
  • The anniversary of Darwin’s birth | Stephen Whitehouse
  • Acts of the Apostles 24 – Acts 21:30-22:23 | Paul Cresswell
  • The Letter to the Philippians 2 – “He which hath begun a good work in you … ” | Mark Allfree
  • Signs of the times A new era?
  • Israel and their land War in Gaza
  • The brotherhood near and far

A sample article from this edition:

The anniversary of Darwin’s birth

THERE are celebrations this month to mark two hundred years since the birth of Charles Darwin (February 12, 1809 to April 19, 1882), and later in 2009 the 150th anniversary of his book, On the Origin of Species, in which he proposed evolution as the dominant scientific explanation for diversification in nature. In recognition of his work he was awarded high scientific honour and was accorded a state funeral. Even today, with his portrait printed on the back of a British £10 note and a postage stamp, his influence is strongly felt.

Yet after so many awards and honours, after the praise and tributes, if we look at Darwin’s legacy in the cold light of day, we soon conclude that he has probably done more harm to the Christian faith than any religious persecution or oppressor in history. His theory of evolution has caused many millions to doubt God’s work of creation and the truthfulness of the Bible. Rather than believing the scriptures to be the inspired word of God, they have turned to “irreligious and frivolous talk, and controversy with what is falsely called ‘knowledge’” (1 Timothy 6:20, Weymouth).

Reaction to his work

When Darwin published his theory religious reaction was mixed. His old Cambridge tutors rejected his theory, while liberal clergymen soon adopted the concept of ‘natural selection’ as an instrument of God’s design. One respected churchman viewed it as “just as noble a conception of the Deity”. [1] Though there have been some notable exceptions – such as the Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce – the Church of England’s response to his writings has been ineffective. After first refusing to accept his theory, the Church now affectionately embraces it like the rest: “Charles Darwin, 200 years from your birth (1809), the Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand”. [2]

The Roman Catholic Church has been no better, giving mixed signals on evolution. For instance, in November 2005 Cardinal Paul Poupard said, according to The Times: “The Genesis account of creation and Darwin’s theory of evolution are perfectly compatible if the Bible is read correctly.” Also, George Coyne, Director of the Vatican Observatory, has openly criticised intelligent design, suggesting that it diminishes God into “an engineer who designs systems rather than a lover”. He explained, “God in his infinite freedom continuously creates a world which reflects that freedom at all levels of the evolutionary process to greater and greater complexity … God lets the world be what it will be in its continuous evolution. He does not intervene, but rather allows, participates, loves”. He further reinforced his comments by pointing out what Pope John Paul II also believed – that “evolution is no longer a mere hypothesis”, but rather “a fundamental church teaching” (see Catholic Online, January 30, 2006).

A sad state of affairs

This forceful and insidious promotion of evolution as a scientific fact – at the expense of the Bible’s account – has been made most evident during recent months. The Director of Education at the Royal Society had to resign last September over comments he made regarding creationism. His resignation followed an ugly witch-hunt by fellow academics, angered by his suggestion that science teachers should treat creationist beliefs “not as a misconception but as a world view”. After the resignation, the Royal Society reiterated its position that creationism had no scientific basis and should not be part of the science curriculum for children.

Meanwhile, during the US presidential election, the American press was having a field day with vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, following her comments on creationism. She was brave enough to say that creation should be taught in schools. Not very shocking, we might think. But in today’s anti-religious climate it certainly was – especially by one who was seeking high political office. However, her remarks need to be put into context: almost half of Americans accept the Bible account of creation. Sadly, the situation in the UK is very different. A 2006 survey for the BBC found that only a fifth of those polled were convinced by the creation account, compared with nearly half who supported Darwin’s theory of evolution.

This sad state of affairs is not surprising since prominent personalities, such as Professor Richard Dawkins, have been highly vocal, almost to the point of obsession, in promoting the theory of evolution. Dawkins, having already offended Bible believers with his book, The God Delusion, has now stepped down from his post at Oxford University to write a book solely aimed at youngsters: “a children’s book on how to think about the world, science thinking contrasted with mythical thinking.” He explained that it will set out to demolish the “Judaeo-Christian myth”. [3] The aim is to shake the foundations of young people’s faith in the word of God and to undermine their beliefs. Richard Dawkins is specifically targeting children because he believes they are being “abused” by being taught about religion at school and at home.

Our responsibilities

Darwin’s legacy is therefore alive and well. He is still very much in vogue. Though he was born two hundred years ago, his influence is still strongly felt. Spurred on by his theory, there is now a militant and rapidly growing anti-creation lobby which perceives the Bible teaching of creation as a betrayal of our children’s interests. We, as Christadelphians, try to pass down our beliefs to our children, just as the scriptures command us to do (see Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4). Because we teach our children to respect the Bible we are viewed by many as “brainwashing” parents; unfairly imposing our “prejudices” upon young, innocent and impressionable minds. Others will accuse us of being guilty of “intellectual child abuse”. Thus the Bible, our beliefs and our way of life are under heavy attack from every side – from both Church and State.

However, we continue, regardless; for we can be confident that the word of God answers any challenge. We therefore continue to teach our children the wonders of scripture and God’s message of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot rely on the schools, the government or anyone in this world, to help us achieve this godly end. We have to be prayerful, vigilant and work together. If our Lord remains away, our children and young people are the brotherhood’s future, so it is vitally important that we do this. And let us all take great heart, for the time of Noah was no different: that generation preferred not to heed God’s word and then it was too late. Importantly, Jesus said that just “as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:37). What was Noah doing? He was busy preparing “an ark for the saving of his house” (Hebrews 11:7). God’s command is no different today. We are to do the same.

Stephen Whitehouse

[1] Adrian Desmond, James Moore, Darwin, London: Michael Joseph, Penguin Group, 1991, ISBN 0-7181-3430-3.

[2] Dr. Malcolm Brown of the Church’s mission and public affairs department (Mail Online, September 13, 2008).

[3] The Times (Travel section) on January 17 listed among holiday activities for the young, an “Atheist Camp” in July, in Somerset, to coincide with the Darwin anniversary, and “with financial backing from Richard Dawkins”. It says it is “conceived as an antidote to Bible camps in the US”!

 

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