Seed Magazine Writes About the 'Clergy Letter Project'
- 2006 5 Apr
Seed Magazine is a part of Seed Media Group, which describes itself as "an emerging science media and entertainment company" that creates and distributes "content that communicates science's fast changing place in our culture to an international audience."
In a recent article titled "Strange Bedfellows," Seed reported on the Clergy Letter Project, which garnered the signatures of over 10,000 clergy who claim the "theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth" that is compatible with Christianity. Because I had written a column entitled "Rebuking the Clergy Letter Project," Seed requested an interview with me for the story.
The article, I thought, was certainly skewed toward evolution, accepting rather blindly New York Times science writer Ken Chang's assessment that the Discovery Institute's "Dissent from Darwin" statement (a statement by over 500 doctoral scientists expressing doubts concerning the claims of evolution) was without credibility because most of its signers were evangelical non-biologists. According to John West of the Discovery Institute, most of the scientists Chang interviewed didn't base their doubts of Darwinism on their religion, but their scientific views. And it shouldn't present a problem some of the scientists were non-biologists when so many of Darwinism's most avid defenders are non-biologists. Moreover, West argues the single largest group of the signers was biologists (154 of the 514). He adds: "Of course the list also includes many scientists specializing in chemistry, physics, engineering, mathematics/statistics, and related disciplines. But since Darwinists continually assert that their theory has implications for many scientific fields, why shouldn't scientists from these other fields have the right to speak out?"
One aspect I did, however, appreciate about the article was its objectivity regarding the Clergy Letter Project. It simply states: "While most of the signing clergy interviewed espoused the common theme that their religion is pro-science, many others were mistaken about the science they apparently supported." Indeed, many on that list are obviously in error -- failing to recognize that evolution by definition repudiates the Scripture's teaching of a Sovereign God and the full scope of His work in Christ to the consummation. As I noted in the Seed article: "Clergy, like those that have signed the Clergy Letter Project -- those that have given away a portion of the truth in order to defend the rest of it -- are no real friends of true religion or the Bible." They have, without question, embraced something that is neither good science nor religion.
When Maggie Witlin, the author of the piece in Seed Magazine contacted me about an interview, she sent me a series of very probing and insightful questions via e-mail that I sought to answer thoroughly. However, only a smidgen of what I gave Witlin was used in her article. I thought many would be interested in knowing what her questions were and how they were answered. I've included them below with a prayerful spirit that God might use what was said as a means of defending and furthering the truth.
1. What was your first reaction to the Clergy Letter Project? What do you find most troubling about it?
I must confess my first reaction to The Clergy Letter Project was one of grief, but not one of surprise. We are, unfortunately, living in a day when clergy by the masses are exchanging the inerrant and eternal truth of Holy Scripture for the newest morality, theology, or latest intellectual sophistry. Ministers are charged with a high and holy calling. Deposited to their care are the oracles of God found in the Bible. They are required to preserve and teach them faithfully.
Jesus used bitter and castigating words to denounce the religious leaders of his day that failed in this task. They added and subtracted from the Scriptures and substituted them with the empty philosophies, speculations, and traditions of men. These religious leaders required the oracles of God to adapt to their presuppositions rather than necessitating their presuppositions conform to the Word of God. Thus, Jesus said that they had become "blind guides" and had "shut up the kingdom of heaven." The Clergy Letter Project is a perfect modern day example of this situation.
What is most troubling about this type of approach to the Scriptures -- the kind that says the creation account is not trustworthy -- that it is mythological and shouldn't be taken literally -- that it should be read as metaphorical or as an allegorical story is that it creates a wake of jumbled moral confusions and provides no certain light -- no sure word regarding God, life, and eternity.
2. Very briefly (because I can gather this from your AgapePress editorial), what are your scientific concerns with evolution and members of the clergy favoring its teaching?
Evolution is not supported by the majority of scientific laws, such as the laws of first cause, the First and Second Law of Thermodynamics. In short, how can evolution be science if it is not supported by science?
Although many contend evolution is a proven scientific fact, this is simply a false teaching. There are thousands of scientists today who reject evolution. Just recently, WorldNetDaily reported "[m]ore than 500 scientists with doctoral degrees have signed a statement expressing skepticism about Darwin's theory of evolution." The statement includes the signatures of some incredibly prestigious persons in the scientific community from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, The Smithsonian, The National Institute of Health's National Center for Biotechnology Information, Rivista di Biologia/Biology Forum, Giuseppe Sermonti and Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, MIT, Cambridge University, UCLA, University of California at Berkeley, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, Ohio State University, University of Georgia and University of Washington. If evolution were a scientifically proven fact, so many reputable scientists wouldn't be expressing such skepticism.
Neither evolution nor creation is, in fact, a valid scientific theory or hypothesis because neither can really be tested. When this is the case, that is that neither can be confirmed experimentally, then the usual practice is that the system or model that correlates the greatest number of data, with the smallest number of unresolved contradictory data, is favored as the model most plausible to be correct. So both evolution and creation are essentially faith systems with claims of evidence to be considered. However, I am unswervingly convinced the system that has the strongest evidence for the truth is creation science and not evolution. Once all the data is carefully considered, I believe it takes much more faith to accept the claims of evolution than the claims of the Bible's creation account.
When clergy embrace the teachings of evolution as truth and abandon the authority of Scripture, they are not using their brains as The Clergy Letter Project claims; instead they are demonstrating they have been brainwashed.
3. Do you believe that science is a way to truth? How much truth can it provide, and what kinds of truth can it provide?
I genuinely believe that all truth is from God, whether truth in science or in the Bible. The Ten Commandments and Jesus' Sermon on the Mount are surely from God. But so is the musical scale, the multiplication table, the chemical composition of water, the photosynthesis of a plant, and the laws of gravity -- all these factual principles are from God. God is the source of truth.
God is also the one who established all scientific laws, and good science will point to Him. That's why we needn't fear that there will ever be a discovery of some scientific fact that contradicts the Bible properly interpreted.
For instance, some Christians (I don't know of any today, but this was the case at one time) have erroneously taught that the earth is flat and that it has four corners, because the Bible says God "shall assemble the outcasts of the earth and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth" (Isaiah 11:12). John Jasper, a famous minister of yesteryear from Richmond, Virginia, used to preach a sermon titled, The Sun Do Move. Jasper's premise was that the Bible teaches that the world is flat and stationary and the sun moves around the earth. But good Bible scholars know this is a poor interpretation and a violation of the most fundamental principles of hermeneutics -- the science and art of interpretation.
Let's not forget that the Bible also speaks of the earth as a sphere or a globe in Isaiah 40:22. Jesus implied that the earth revolves around its axis when he spoke of his Second Coming in Luke 17:34-36. In other words, when Christ comes again -- in that one brief moment -- in some part of the earth it will be night and people will be sleeping and in another part it will be day and they will be working.
Obviously, the "four corners of the earth" is just colorful language used to describe four directions, namely, north, east, south and west. Christ spoke of gathering Israel "from the four winds" (Matthew 24:31). Such language to describe the natural world is simply that of observation and never meant to be interpreted as doctrine for a flat earth.
No, there is no contradiction in the Bible to any fact of science, when the Scriptures are properly interpreted.
However, science doesn't always get it right either. The evolutionist's interpretation of the geological formations, for example, has caused many to think in terms of slowly accumulated strata. The evolutionist describes the earth as millions of years old -- such is the heart of evolutionary theory. (The data accumulated by scientists and their interpretation in favor of an earth developed over millions of years has caused many theologians to abandon their belief in a six day creation and advance such theories as "The Gap Theory," "The Day-Age Theory," "Progressive Creation," "Theistic Evolution," etc.) But all of what the scientist sees is not what it seems. A scientific examination of geological processes reveals that something cataclysmic occurred that transformed the world into the way it appears today. What we currently see in geological features is primarily the result of the Noahic flood as described in the book of Genesis and not evolutionary processes. The earth is still relatively young as the Bible reveals and not millions of years old as evolutions contend. Thus, I suggest it is the scientists' interpretation of the data that often misleads.
I would agree the Bible is not a textbook on science. But that doesn't mean that it is either untrue or unscientific when it mentions matters of science incidentally or plainly. In order to find the truth either in science or the Bible, the proper interpretation is the key. This is not simply a subjective matter, however. Theologians must use proper hermeneutics. And scientists who properly interpret their data won't be lead away from God and the teachings of the Bible.
Moreover, clergy, like those that have signed The Clergy Letter Project, those that have given away a portion of the truth in order to defend the rest of it, are no real friends of true religion or the Bible. If the Bible has errors with respect to science, but not theology, what is to prove the theology is correct if the science isn't? In other words, if the Bible isn't correct when it speaks of creation, how can it be trusted when it speaks of salvation? If the Scriptures are not right when it speaks of the earth, how can it be trusted when it speaks of heaven?
4. What is your precise denomination (I'm not familiar with subdivisions of Baptism)? Do you believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible? Do you believe different Christian denominations and sects are all good Christians? (If the phrasing of these questions feel off to you, please feel free to answer slightly different versions of the questions)
I am a Southern Baptist. However, as Executive Director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, I represent conservative evangelicals from fifteen different denominations in the Tar Heel State.
Your questions, "Do you believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible?" and "How literally should a Christian take the Bible?" are, I believe, somewhat misleading. Again, I need to reiterate. The scientific method used for properly interpreting Scripture is hermeneutics. Those that use these principles for interpretation discover the Bible is a divinely inspired book, but clearly meant to be understood on a human level. Every sentence must be understood within its proper context: its author's intentions, its intended audience, when it was written, whether it's poetry, allegory, or a historical narrative. The Genesis narrative, however, is plainly a historical narrative, and, therefore, must be read and interpreted as literal history.
No matter what denomination one may come from, there is essentially only one qualification to rightly assume the identification of "Christian." One must receive the Lord Jesus Christ and enter into a personal relationship with Him as Lord and Savior (John 1:16). One must acknowledge their sinfulness and turn to Him in faith for forgiveness, believing that Christ's finished work on the Cross and bodily resurrection from the dead is sufficient for their redemption from sin and receiving the gift of eternal life, not their good works (I Corinthians 15:1-4; I John: 5:13; Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-9). Good works are the natural outworking of a genuine conversion experience and not what secures one's place in the kingdom of God. According to the Bible, all saints are but saved sinners.
This is why millions of what we might call "good Christians" believe God used the means of Darwinian evolution (not realizing that the purpose of evolution is to completely discount God -- to entirely remove Him from the picture) to create the earth. But in taking that approach they unwittingly compromise the integrity of the very faith they say they hold so dear. It's a failure on their part.
In the end, only God can judge to what extent the degree of their guilt -- whether they were really "good Christians" or not -- whether their allegiance to evolution was out of spiritual ignorance or whether it was a willful departure from God's revealed truth.
5. If evolution were shown to be true, as many scientists say it is under the standard scientific burden of proof, how should a good Christian deal with it? (i.e, You discuss how evolution is bad science, but if it were good science, would that matter? Or do you not believe good science can possibly ever contradict Christian thought?)
It is impossible and will remain impossible to scientifically prove the theory of evolution, no matter how many scientists say otherwise. Scientists who insist that evolution has been scientifically proven are simply disseminating a false teaching. As I mentioned in my editorial: "Evolution operates too slowly to be measured. To actually observe the transmutation of one organism to a higher form would presumably take millions of years. No team of scientists could ever make measurements on such an experiment, and, therefore, the matter is beyond the realm of empirical science. Although there is some evidence of small variations in organisms today, there is no way to conclusively prove the changes within the present kinds can eventually metamorphose or actually change into different and higher kinds."
What is more, the Second Law of Thermodynamics constitutes an incredible difficulty for evolutionists. Creationists are often baffled at the way evolutionists seem to dismiss it. This law states that there exists a fundamental and universal change in nature that is downhill and not uphill, as evolution claims. In order for an organism to advance or evolve, energy must in some way be introduced, gained or increased. The Second Law, however, says this will not happen in any natural process unless external factors enter in to produce it. This, in effect, acknowledges the validity of the creationist approach and not that of evolution. Various inadequate explanations for reconciling the Second Law with evolution have been offered, but creation doesn't have to explain it. Instead, the creation model -- the creation account in Genesis -- fits it perfectly.
Evolution poses an insurmountable difficulty for any Christian serious about their faith. It is neither scientific by definition and it certainly isn't good theology. The biblical God is not a God of chance and confusion, random combinations, natural selection and "survival of the fittest." He is a sovereign God -- sovereign in all matters of life. Evolution by definition denies this and repudiates the full scope of the work of God in Jesus Christ from the creation to the consummation. Clergy who fail to realize this end up proffering a "gospel" (which is no gospel at all) of randomness and uncertainty forever. They turn men from a God of creative purpose to a god of chance.
6. How do your colleagues seem to feel regarding evolution and its teaching? Are you in contact with any people who are pro-teaching evolution?
I believe most of my colleagues reject evolution by its definition and seek to counter it by their preaching and teaching. Nevertheless, some have adopted various theories such as the "Gap Theory," "Day Age Theory," "Theistic Evolution," etc. in order to try and reconcile the many claims of evolution against the Bible. Though their intentions may be good -- an effort to protect the integrity of the Bible -- I believe this a mistake, largely an act of panic, and completely unnecessary.
I am at times with people who espouse evolution. Whenever I have challenged their claims, however, I am often met with ridicule, sometimes with curiosity, and other times with a genuine desire to pursue the matter more. Sadly, most Christians that I discuss the matter with seem to know very little about what evolution or the Bible actually says.
7. How many Americans does your denomination represent? How many Americans are represented by more fundamentalist branches of Christianity that would tend to oppose the teaching of evolution?
My denomination, Southern Baptist, has nearly 16 million Americans as members. They are the largest Baptist group, as well as the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. Fundamentalist Christians, who typically oppose the teaching of evolution, make up about 25% of the American population.
Although I don't know the purpose behind this question, I think it may be important to point out that truth is never determined by how many people believe it. Truth is absolute and totally independent of whether a majority or minority subscribes to it.
8. In sum: How much flexibility is there for reconciliation of faith and science, theoretically (independent of the religion) and specifically for Christianity?
I do not believe that faith and science are actually hostile to one another. I do believe, however, that evolutionary theory is opposed to both faith and science.
Dr. D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in his book, What If the Bible Had Never Been Written rightly contends that science could have only developed in a Christian civilization. It couldn't have come from animists who believe that the things of nature have gods in them. Nor could it have come from Islam with its strong assertions of fatalism. It most certainly couldn't have come from Buddhists or Hindus because of their belief that the world is an illusion. Although there were incipient beginnings in Greece, modern science was actually birthed in a Christian civilization in Western Europe in the late Middle Ages. Modern science couldn't have even been born in our own time because today man essentially believes life is irrational and illogical -- and what's the premise of that way of thinking? -- Evolution! Today, man rejects the idea of absolutes, and, therefore, actually rejects the very foundation of science. How can one have a valid scientific hypothesis if there are no absolutes? If there are no absolutes, then results of experimentation are all relative. This destroys science.
The early great scientists like Kepler, Galileo, and Newton shared the view that God was a God of reason who had created a rational universe, and by reason man could find out much about the universe's design. The Bible had a tremendous influence on their lives and their science. The same could be said concerning many other scientists in more recent times. The Bible and Christianity have been a tremendous help to science. Science has done much to lift the burden of the curse on nature because of man's sin. Science and faith are not enemies of each other. Evolutionary theory, however, is the enemy of both. Evolution is the hostile agitator that seeks to drive them both apart.
Rev. Mark H. Creech (email@example.com) is the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. (ChristianActionLeague.net), based in Raleigh.