Evolution, Creation & Politics

     Evidently the debate between evolution and creation are as perennial as politics.  GOP candidate Jon Huntsman has been quoted as saying “I believe in evolution” and fellow contender Rick Perry has dismissed evolution as being one of those theories “out there.”  In one of his appearances a mother was overheard by a reporter to be goading her son to ask Perry why “he doesn’t believe in science.”  The general consensus of creationists is we do not believe in science.    
     But Perry’s defense of creation is as pitiable as that of William Jennings Bryant in the Scopes monkey trial of 1925.  Clarence Darrow’s cross-examination of Bryant regarding his views on creation made clear that while Bryant believed in creation he had not adequately formulated a response to the claims of evolution.  While Bryant and Perry’s faith is admirable, if they insist on insinuating themselves into the public discourse on this matter, they should be better informed and more articulate.    
     I believe the account of creation recorded in Genesis, but my rejection of evolution is not based on my religious convictions.  There is a theological perspective that attempts to meld biblical truth with evolutionary theory known as theistic evolution.  After studying it I rejected it, not because it compromised the teaching of Scripture, but for its compromise of the scientific method.  Theistic evolution is bad theology and even worse science, but I am opposed to the theory of evolution because it is poor science.    
     Science consists of gathering data through observation of natural phenomena or observation and recording results of experimentation in a controlled environment such as a laboratory.  At its essence, science is observation.  Observation reveals facts and scientists speculate on what the facts mean and this gives rise to theories.  There is a huge gap between what science observes and what science speculates.    
     When it comes to the origin of life, that gap is about 3.5 billion years.  Scientists theorize life began 3.5 billion years ago and they have formulated several theories about the origin of life, but the whole scientific community is not in possession of a single observed fact about how life began.  They can only guess how life began because they did not observe how life began.  If you think that last sentence is an exaggeration, read on.    
     The National Academy of Sciences is a group of about 2,100 scientists representing every major science discipline.  About two hundred of their number have received Nobel Prizes in their various fields of study.  They are often called upon to advise the Congress of the United States regarding technical or scientific issues affecting pending legislation.  They promote the teaching of evolution and oppose the teaching of creationism.    
      In a publication entitled Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences, Second Edition (1999), page 7, we read, “Of course, even if a living cell were to be made in the laboratory, it would not prove nature followed the same pathway billions of years ago.”  This is a stunningly honest admission by a body of highly respected scientists.  Since the origin of life is an unobserved event shrouded in antiquity, they must admit they do not know what happened.  This same admission is repeated almost verbatim in a 2008 publication entitled Science, Evolution and Creationism, page 22.  Both publications can be viewed free of charge at the National Academies Press website.    
     Of course, other comments in these publications like “no one yet knows” or “scientists who study the origin of life do not yet know” seem to get lost in the wordy explanations of what scientist do know and serve to obscure what they do not know.  Scientists are very good at the art of observation and recording what they observe.  They are not always good at speculating about what happened in the distant past or even the near future, because the distant past and near future are unobserved.  They can only speculate, and history is replete with the speculative mistakes of science.  It is arrogance for any scientist to think that because he knows some things, he knows everything.    
     I do not know how evolution v. creation wound its way into the current political discourse of GOP hopefuls, but it is of eternal significance that we learn to distinguish between matters of fact and faith.    
     “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:21-22).”

God’s Time

     This past week in an online article entitled “Pastor’s comments do Tebow a disservice” Yahoo! Sports writer Dan Wetzel quotes Tim Tebow’s pastor, Wayne Hanson, as saying, “It’s not luck.  Luck isn’t winning six games in a row.  It’s favor, God’s favor.”  Wetzel opines, “Comments like these aren’t helping Tim Tebow.  And they aren’t helping gain acceptance for the faith Tebow is willing to serve as public representative.”  Wetzel goes on to write that Tebow himself has “never said God is deciding who wins football games.”  He goes further by saying Tebow doesn’t even want all the credit for winning.  Wetzel points out that Tebow said, “I don’t think it’s Tebow Time.  I think it’s Broncos Time.”    
     I have been reluctant to write about Tim Tebow’s blend of faith and football thinking what I have to say on the subject may be misunderstood.  But when pastors like Wayne Hanson make such spiritually shallow comments, I thought it might be time to clarify the issues.    
     Pastor Hanson is correct when he says, “It’s not luck.”  Luck is a term we humans use to explain unexpected outcomes or an unforeseen consequence of our actions.  From a scriptural and divine perspective there is no such thing as happenstance.  So the absence of fortune does not mean the presence of favor.  For Pastor Hanson to say Tebow’s success on the gridiron is because of God’s favor, is suggesting that Tebow’s Christian competitors are in God’s disfavor.  And should Tebow lose a game does this mean he no longer is in God’s favor?    
     I believe that God is intensely interested in every aspect of life, including what happens on a professional football field, because God is interested in shaping our character and events do that for good or ill.  But I agree with Dan Wetzel when he writes, “Very few people…believe God cares about the result of a football game.”  God’s favor cannot be reduced to the final points on a scoreboard, and Pastor Hanson’s comments do not do a disservice to Tim Tebow as much as they do a disservice to God.    
     I am a fan of Tim Tebow the Christian.  He gives every appearance of being a sincere Christian on and off the field.  He is always courteous and respectful.  He is unperturbed in the face of criticism and even seems humbled by it.  I do not know what his salary is (I do not follow such things), but he does not seem to be self-indulgent and has formed a foundation to help those who are in need.  His personal life and character is a role model for younger Christians.     I am not a fan of Tim Tebow the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos.  Professional sports, whatever form it takes, football, baseball, etc., competes for the attention of believers and is a distraction from church on Sundays.  Right now, Tim Tebow is a part of that.    
     The son of missionaries, Eric Liddell, believed in the fourth commandment, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy (Exodus 20:8).”  He was a renowned runner, and as a part of the British Olympic Team, was the odds-on favorite to win the 100 meter dash in the 1924 Olympic Games held in Paris, France.  When he learned that the 100 meter trial heats were going to be held on a Sunday, he refused to compromise his convictions and compete.  Refusing to bow to pressure he was given a chance to compete in the 400 meter race.    
     As he stepped on the track, a masseur for the American Olympic Team handed Liddell a note on which were scrawled the words of God found in 1 Samuel 2:30, “those who honor Me I will honor.”  Liddell clutched that note as he ran the 400 meters and not only did he win the gold medal, he set a new world record.  Rather than pursue fame and fortune as a professional athlete, Liddell joined his family on the mission field in China.    
     Tim Tebow’s boyhood dream was to become a professional quarterback, but I believe God has a much greater plan for his life.  I pray that Tim Tebow maintains his Christian testimony and look forward to the day when he turns his back on professional sports and seeks God’s plan for his life.    
     Despite what his fans say, this Sunday will not be “Tebow time.”  And despite what Tim says, this Sunday will not be “Broncos time.”  This Sunday is “God’s time.”

Ode to a Masterpiece

     On July 22, 1604, King James I of England wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Richard Bancroft, requesting the undertaking of translating a new English version of the Bible.  Two bibles had already been authorized, the Geneva Bible and the Bishops’ Bible.  These had not been well received by “commoners” and there were some concerns among scholars and heads of state about both versions.  While fifty-four translators had been approved to take part in this new English version of the Bible, only forty-seven actually did.  Consulting the two earlier versions and the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, these forty-seven scholars completed their task in 1611.
     It is fair to say that for the last four hundred years the King James Version has been the most popular version of English bibles.  This month, December 2011, National Geographic’s cover story is The King James Bible: Making a Masterpiece.  The article showcases the 400th anniversary of the Authorized King James Version Bible and its influence on the English-speaking world.  And just as Greek was the language of commerce and trade during the time of Christ, English is the language of commerce and trade today.  This fact means the King James Version of the Bible has had an influence much broader than just the English-speaking world; its impact has been global.    
     Because the KJV, as it is known affectionately by believers, is a religious book and often printed to be given away, it is not given consideration as a best-selling book.  But it is by far the most printed book with an estimated 6 billion copies in circulation; the book estimated to be in second place is 4 billion copies behind it.    
     The number one best-selling book of all time is A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens with 200 million copies sold.  It is a novel about London and Paris in the historical context before and during the French Revolution.  Though the accounts and characters contained it are fictional its comparison to historical accounts is compelling.  Let me give you a synopsis of this best-selling book.    
     Lucie Manette and Charles Darnay are in love.  Charles was born and raised in France, but they both live in London now and are wed.  Dr. Manette, Lucie’s father, is thought to have died during the revolution, but it is discovered he is alive and in prison in France awaiting execution.  Though innocent of any crime, Dr. Manette’s profession had brought him into association with the French aristocracy and in the blood-letting of the French Revolution he is condemned to death for that association.  Lucie is beside herself with fear for her father’s welfare.  Charles travels to France in the hope of securing Dr. Manette’s release.  He is successful, but because he is the nephew of a condemned aristocrat, he is imprisoned and sentenced to die on the guillotine.    
     The improbable hero of this novel is Sydney Carton, an English barrister who has fallen into disrepute because he is an inveterate drunk.  Carton has loved Lucie Manette, now Lucie Darney, for many years, but has done so from afar thinking his addiction to drink makes him an unsuitable candidate for her affections.  Learning of Charles Darnay’s imprisonment and pending execution, and because of his love for Lucie, he travels to France to attempt Charles’ release.    
     Carton bribes Charles’ jailers to meet with him.  Knowing Charles would never agree with his plan, Carton drugs Darnay, and trades clothing with him.  Carton gives his letters of identification to his accomplices who take Charles back to London.  Carton now takes Charles place.    
     On the fateful day as Sydney Carton stands in the line awaiting his turn to die, the young lady next to him almost faints at the prospect of her soon execution.  Her only fault is she is the daughter of an aristocrat, but she marvels at Carton’s seeming placid state of mind in the deadly march to the guillotine.  He shares with her the words of Christ, “I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believeth in me, thought he were dead, yet shall he live (John 11:25 KJV).”  Carton’s calm composure was his faith in the sure hope of the resurrection.    
     The KJV is a masterpiece because it is the message of the Master, a message of redemption and resurrection.  Yes, Sydney Carton is a fictional character in a romantic novel, but the theme is a reflection of reality; many a Christian has faced death and martyrdom with a hope anchored in the promise of the resurrection.  It is no accident that this message is the theme of the best-selling book of all time.

Being Nobel-Minded

     LifeWay Christian Resources is one of the largest suppliers of Christian literature and Bible study aids in the world.  The top man of LifeWay Research is Ed Stetzer.  LifeWay Research is always seeking ways to understand the Christian market to better promote their products.  They do this because they want to do their very best to make the teachings of the Bible creative and effective so more people can be reached with its message.    
     Recently LifeWay conducted a study to determine the factors that promote spiritual maturity in Christian believers.  Stetzer says, “the number-one correlated factor to spiritual growth and maturity was consistency in the Bible…we know how essential this is to spiritual maturity, so literacy is not just something that kind of floats out there by itself; it is a tool.  Biblical literacy is a tool that God uses to grow people spiritually as well.”  Stetzer’s point is well made.  World renowned evangelical John Stott, who recently passed away, rose every morning at five o’clock to read his Bible and pray.  For more than fifty years, John Stott read through his Bible every year.  Is it any wonder that his spiritual influence was recognized and felt around the world?    
     Stetzer goes on to point out that many church-goers rely too much on the pastor to read and study the Word of God and then teach them what it says.  They depend on the Pastor to spoon fed them the Scriptures from the pulpit.  He is right, and there are at several reasons why this is not good.    
     First, one of the ways God speaks to each of us is through His Word.  To have a deeper relationship with God we need the example of His interaction with other individuals so that we can know what to expect from Him and what He expects of us.  Some long distance relationships last: most don’t.  Those that do, separation by distance was only a temporary situation.  In the same manner we need to hear from God daily to be close to Him, not someone else’s relationship regurgitated from the pulpit a couple of times a week.  God wants a close relationship with each of His children, and each of us needs it.  Preaching is meant to be confirmation, not revelation.    
     Second, as I mentioned in my last article, there are a plethora of contradicting and competing beliefs being proclaimed daily that can confuse and mislead the devout.  The best way to guard against false doctrines and counterfeit beliefs is to know what the Truth is.  Harold Camping misled millions about the return of Christ and the Day of Judgment, but he was able to do so because they had not read the simple words of Christ.  Regarding His return to this world Jesus said “of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone (Matthew 24:36).”    
     Third, there is the example of Christ.  Jesus was questioned incessantly about His teachings by those who doubted His authority and questioned His being the Son of God.  On matters of doctrine He invariably quoted the relevant passage of Scripture to silence his accusers.  When His forty day fast in the wilderness was completed and He was tempted by the devil, at His weakest moment, His response to Satan on each successive temptation was prefaced with these three words, “It is written…”  If our Example relied upon the Word of God when questioned and in the hour of temptation, can we do less?    
     Space will not permit me room to share all of the reasons Christians should read their Bible.  But as I close let share one more.  The world may not admit it, but the truth is the world longs to see examples of true love, joy and peace.  But in a world that seems to be aimlessly stumbling in the dark, longing for direction, how can Christians point the way when they have forsaken the Word that is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path?  If the world is to see Christ they must see Him through us, and to see Him clearly we must be people of the Book.    
     The New Year will be upon us soon.  Resolve to read through your Bible this year and get an early start now.  Five chapters a day, twenty to thirty minutes a day, Monday through Friday will get you through the Bible in less than a year.  Be like the Berean believers who “were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so (Acts 17:11).”