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More Gospel & Less Monkey Business

April 11, 2008

Americans have always understood that Evolution vs. Creationism makes for good drama. That was the mindset behind the origin of the 1925 Scopes “Monkey” Trial in Dayton, TN. Contrary to popular belief, the fundamentalist Dayton school board did not demand John T. Scopes’ head on a platter for teaching the theory of evolution and thus corrupting their school children. An E! True Hollywood Story expose would have revealed that the trial was really about sensationalism to try and generate publicity for Dayton. And it worked. The state of Tennessee at that time had passed the Butler Act, which prohibited the teaching of evolution in the public schools. In response, the newly formed American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced that it would financially support a test case if any teacher would step forth and challenge the constitutionality of the Butler Act.

Dayton’s scheme was hatched by local business men sitting around the local drugstore. The plan was simple: Tennessee law prohibited the teaching of evolution in schools, yet it also required schools to use a biology textbook that included a chapter on evolution. This apparent paradox provided the impetus for a test case. Needing a subject for the case, they called over the local chain-smoking high school football coach (and part-time substitute teacher), John T. Scopes. Scopes agreed to the trial, then the men contacted the ACLU, Chattanooga Times, and Nashville Banner. The Dayton justice of the peace swore out the warrant for Scopes’ “arrest” (he had confessed to breaking the law for teaching against TN law, of course), and he then let Scopes free to go play tennis. The legend of the Scopes Trail had begun; it was a show that was “going to put Dayton on the map!” And it did. Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan ensured that Dayton would never be the same.

Well, the year is now 2008, and Evolution vs. Creationism still makes for good drama. That’s part of the reason why Ben Stein’s upcoming documentary (Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed) has been making so much of an impact. I did a brief synopsis of why I believe everyone should go see this movie, and my post was responded to by some earnest opponents of the creationism expounded in Stein’s movie. Complaints against this documentary have centered upon the simplicity in which some details were portrayed and the apparently unethical means by which the producers misled the evolutionists to believe they were giving interviews for something other than a creationist polemic. However, even bad publicity is publicity. Expelled will have no shortage of proponents and opponents to debate its merits and contributions to American society. Clearly, the evolution debate continues to excite passions long after the 1859 publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species.

As a Christian, one must to take a stand on this issue that is not dependent upon the sensationalism of this ongoing debate. Defending or promoting Ben Stein’s movie should not be the ultimate concern of the Christian. As Charles Hodge argued in his 1874 What is Darwinism?, there are only three rational explanations for the existence of the universe: atheism, pantheism, or theism. The naturalistic theory of evolution as the explanation for the existence of life as expounded by Charles Darwin amounts to nothing less than atheism. Ultimately, the greatest flaw with Darwinism is that it refuses to acknowledge the reality and necessity of teleology, which practically demands the existence of a Supreme Being. Although a Darwinist might pay nominal service to God’s existence, his dismissal of teleology in favor of naturalism testifies to the inherent atheism of his theory.

As I watched the Expelled interviews with atheist scholars such as Richard Dawkins, I noticed that logic eventually mandated them to acknowledge life must have had its origin in something. The world didn’t just appear, but something had to put it there. The presuppositional bias of Dawkins, however, ruled out the possibility that this source could have been the God of the Judeo-Christian worldview. It was then that I realized that no mere tour de force of systematic apologetics could solve the problem of Dawkins’ atheism. The problem is not ultimately Dawkins’ head but his heart. He is not looking for a reason to doubt a Darwinian worldview and accept a Christian one. Rather, he is looking for reasons not to believe the gospel. Inspired by Jeremy Bentham, Dawkins mused that if his atheism should prove to be ill-founded come Judgment Day, then his first defense against God would be to remind Him that He did an awfully poor job of making Himself known to humanity.

In response to Dawkins and Bentham, the Bible tells us that God is not primarily concerned with whether or not people believe He exists, but rather that sinners believe and trust in Him for salvation. The evidence of God’s existence and supremacy is all around us, but because of sin we choose to ignore Him and live life as we desire. An affirmation of a creator God is essential to the Gospel. In order to grasp what it means to be a new creation in Christ, we must first understand that we were created to bear His image all along.

Bibliography:
Edward J. Larson, Summer for the Gods (2006).
Charles Hodge, What is Darwinism? (1874). [Available for free on Google Books]
George Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture (2005)
Inherit the Wind (1960)- View Trailer

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 11, 2008 7:37 pm

    Yup, I posted. But out of compulsion. 🙂 Let the comments roll in!

  2. Adam Winters permalink
    April 12, 2008 11:10 am

    C. J. Mahaney’s devotional reading has taught me well. The first step to overcoming pride is to eliminate any possibility that I’m in denial about it. Let’s just say it is like my own scarlet letter, a badge of shame for the world to see. . . as if to say “Here I am, and I am prideful!” . . .

    Well, actually I’m just messin’. That line was actually a reference to what happened on my own blog this week. I was hoping those guys who have made it a point to comment on every blog discussing Ben Stein’s Expelled would pay me a visit again. Maybe they are getting tired? 😦

  3. April 12, 2008 7:53 pm

    As Charles Hodge argued in his 1874 What is Darwinism?, there are only three rational explanations for the existence of the universe: atheism, pantheism, or theism.

    Here really said that? That’s quite silly. NONE of those things are “explanations” for the existence of the universe: not really even theism (because it refuses to explain the “how.”

    The naturalistic theory of evolution as the explanation for the existence of life as expounded by Charles Darwin amounts to nothing less than atheism.

    Then how come the majority of Christians belong to a church whose official stance is that it’s good science compatible with the faith?

    As I watched the Expelled interviews with atheist scholars such as Richard Dawkins, I noticed that logic eventually mandated them to acknowledge life must have had its origin in something

    This is a rather dishonest sequence in the film. Dawkins is specifically asked not what he thinks is most likely, but rather what the best case scenario for Intelligent Design would be scientifically. So he suggests one hypothetical he thinks would be intriguingly susceptible to scientific testing… and the film then basically claims that he is “willing” to believe this scenario but not in a supernatural creator, and that this is ridiculous. But that simply distorts the entire thrust of their question, Dawkins’ answer, and the whole point, which is that a scientific answer must be testable and susceptible to evidence. You can think there’s a supernatural creator and that’s fine or course, but claiming that there is scientific justification for this is a very different animal.

  4. April 12, 2008 11:22 pm

    Alright, Bad, thanks for stopping by! I appreciate you reading the post and providing a thoughtful response.

    “NONE of those things are “explanations” for the existence of the universe: not really even theism (because it refuses to explain the “how”.”

    I think what Hodge was getting at was that theism & pantheism both assume an intelligent designer or multiple designers. Atheism would assume that there is no reason to believe in an external reality or afterlife but that the universe just IS and has always BEEN, or at least existed in some form be it crystals or whatever (space aliens? ;-))

    “Then how come the majority of Christians belong to a church whose official stance is that it’s good science compatible with the faith?”
    I would beg to differ on that point. Do you have verificaiton for that claim?

    “So he suggests one hypothetical he thinks would be intriguingly susceptible to scientific testing…”

    I figured Dawkins felt backed into a corner, but I would at least expect that he would affirm that the physical world has not always existed and that it at least had a cause. You will have to clarify that for me.

    If nothing else, Badidea, thanks for stopping by and making this post worth my while. Feel free to visit us anytime. We do discuss more than creationism/evolution.

  5. April 13, 2008 3:04 pm

    I found the Scopes discussion illuminating, good thoughts man!

  6. Charles Darwin permalink
    May 15, 2008 10:26 pm

    Uh huh… well…
    It’s easy to criticize!

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