Saturday, September 27, 2008

"Darwin, Forgive Them, for They Know Not What They Do"

I'm always suspicious of a man who insists on using numerous titles with his name. It implies a desperate need to be taken seriously. Such is the case with the Rev. Dr. Malcolm Brown, Director of Mission and Public Affairs for the Church of England.

What he wishes to be taken seriously about is his assertion that the church was a bit too hard on Charles Darwin. I mean, it's not like how human beings came into existence is important, or anything. Brown writes:
    Darwin's meticulous application of the principles of evidence-based research was not the problem. His theory caused offence because it challenged the view that God had created human beings as an entirely different kind of creation to the rest of the animal world. But whilst it is not difficult to see why evolutionary thinking was offensive at the time, on reflection it is not such an earth-shattering idea. Yes, Christians believe that God became incarnate as a human being in the person of Jesus and thereby demonstrated God's especial love for humanity. But how can that special relationship be undermined just because we develop a different understanding of the processes by which humanity came to be? It is hard to avoid the thought that the reaction against Darwin was largely based on what we would now call the 'yuk factor' (an emotional not an intellectual response) when he proposed a lineage from apes to humans.
The Rev. Dr. Brown doesn't stop there. He admonishes those who wish to remain true to Scripture and then goes on to apologize to the long-dead Darwin:
    There is no integrity to be found either in rejecting Darwin's ideas wholesale or in elevating them into the kind of grand theory which reduces humanity to the sum of our evolutionary urges. For the sake of human integrity – and thus for the sake of good Christian living – some rapprochement between Darwin and Christian faith is essential. Charles Darwin: 200 years from your birth, the Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still. We try to practice the old virtues of 'faith seeking understanding' and hope that makes some amends. But the struggle for your reputation is not over yet, and the problem is not just your religious opponents but those who falsely claim you in support of their own interests. Good religion needs to work constructively with good science – and I dare to suggest that the opposite may be true as well.
Let's quickly sum up the Rev. Dr. Brown's point: In order to maintain our integrity and reputation as loving Christians, we must find some common ground between the precious truths taught in Scripture and the lies spewed forth from the pit of Hell. We wouldn't want to be accused of being intolerant, now, would we?


Chris Wilde said...

"The pit of Hell"? I thought it was named "The Beagle".

Lee Shelton said...


Anonymous said...

"lies spewed forth from the pit of Hell. We wouldn't want to be accused of being intolerant, now, would we?"

Tolerance, the catch cry of the 21st century is a farse, it's an unrealistic concept that cares for people feelings rather than their actual well being. So one could stand being called intolerant I think, but you also risk being called small minded and arrogant with a statement like that. What do you base it on?

Lee Shelton said...

It has nothing to do with arrogance. Evolution isn't a "let's agree to disagree" issue. It denies the truth taught in scripture. So, if a theory or teaching states something that is contrary to scripture and distorts our view of God, what else would you call it?

Anonymous said...

I'm still working through it. There is some evidence for it, otherwise people wouldn't be so convinced.

As a scientist I'm in the thick of it and trying to figure out where to hold this dominating theory and the knowledge that not one sparrow will fall to the ground apart from Him.

I really just meant that it's a pretty bold and harsh statement that could leas to more than just being called intolerant. There is a place for harshness sometimes, but 2 Tim also says, "And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will."

Heh, perhaps I was quarrelsome before. Sorry, if I was.

I will use that wonderful search function and find what else you've written about this, since you've probably already answered my question "What do you base it on?" sometime on your blog.

Lee Shelton said...

For what it's worth, I posted a one-verse refutation of evolution here.

As a Christian, my presuppositons are that God exists, that he has made himself known, and that the way we know him is through his word. Therefore, everything I see must be viewed through the lens of scripture. If I observe something that seems to contradict what the Bible says, and I accept God's word as ultimate truth, then I'm forced to reexamine that particular observation in a new light. Chances are I'm misinterpreting what I'm seeing.

Evolution (theistic or otherwise) distorts the view of God presented in scripture. He becomes more passive than deliberate in his role as Creator. And if he was passive in our creation, how could we trust him to be deliberate in our salvation?

While we may see minor adaptations among the species, no evidence has been found for macro-evolution. The fossil record is severely lacking when it comes to transitional specimens. Apes and humans may share some similar characteristics, but that doesn't mean we share a common ancestry. Those who conclude otherwise have to make a "leap of faith" because the scientific method cannot be applied to something that cannot be observed (i.e. evolution).

By the way, I didn't think you were quarrelsome. I know that typed words don't always convey our thoughts the way spoken words can, and I know that I tend to be short and to-the-point in my comments. Sorry if I seemed quarrelsome. :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Lee, I saw your one verse refutation. I've heard that idea before, that evolution depends on death... Using one verse like that may be convincing for people who already lean that way, but I don't think it's particularly useful for others. There's been lots of damage done by people misinterpreting single verses (not that I think you're doing damage with that one, I just don't find it a useful model for finding truth).

I pretty much agree with what you've said about macro- vs. micro-evolution and about God not being passive. However, science was made possible through a theistic worldview; God created an ordered world and acts faithfully in that, which makes it possible for us to observe and discern that order. So if evolution and selection is something that we observe then I think God has his hand in it. I'm not saying I believe in theistic evolution, I'm just admitting that perhaps I don't have the knowledge or perspective to understand the situation completely.

Anonymous said...

Creationism: "The highest form of stupidity requiring the denial of vast swathes of converging empirical evidence born from the desire to reatain a resolute and unfeasible belief in the literal meaning of a particular scripture"

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