In antiquity, Damascus (in Syria) was a great center for trade. The city’s location along a river at the crossroads of two major international highways (the Via Maris and the King’s Highway) ensured its prosperity and importance.
Although Damascus is close to the desert, ample supplies of water from two rivers allow the region to support vineyards and abundant crops of fruits, grains, nuts, cotton, wool, silk, and olives. The Abana River (known today as the Barada) is the primary water source for Damascus. It flows from the northwest mountains through a deep ravine into the city. The Pharpar River (now el-A waj) runs on the outskirts of Damascus, supplying the gardens and orchards. Together these rivers irrigate about 1040 square km (400 square miles) of land. (more…)
Good start, but bad finish
John Akhwari had a good start in the 1968 Olympic marathon race, but he also had a bad finish. He fell during the race and dislocated his knee but kept on going to finish last over one hour behind the winner. Likewise, the town of Bethel in Israel had a good start but a bad finish.
Bethel was 20 km (12 miles) north of Jerusalem; west of Ai (Gen. 12:8) and south of Shiloh (Jud. 21:19). It has been identified with modern Beitin (or Benin) or with el-Bireh. Bethel was on the ancient north-south ridge road that has been referred to as the Road of the Patriarchs. This road went through Shechem, Shiloh, Bethel, Jerusalem, Hebron and Beersheba.
Bethel was on the northern border of the land allocated to the tribe of Benjamin and Jerusalem was on the southern border. Bethel was assigned to the Benjamites, but they did not possess it, as the Ephraimites captured it from the Canaanites (Josh. 18:21-22; Jud. 1:22-26). So Bethel was an Ephraimite town (1 Chron. 7:28). (more…)
Last Wednesday was ANZAC Day, which is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand of those who served and died in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. Did you know that the phrase “Lest we forget” used to commemorate those who died in warfare came from the Bible? It came via the poem “Recessional” (see Appendix A) by Rudyard Kipling which was written towards the end of the 60th anniversary celebrations of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1897. These turned into a celebration of the power of the British Empire.
The poem was written to be sung as a hymn at the end of a church service (see Appendix B for an explanation of its meaning). It acknowledges that God helped establish the British Empire. But all human power is transient and empires eventually decline and disappear. It urges the English to be humble instead of boasting about their achievements. The main warning is not to forget God. The chorus is:
“Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!”
So the context of “Lest we forget” is God, not those who have died.
The title “Lord of hosts” comes from the KJV of the Bible (1 Sam. 1:3), which can be translated “Lord Almighty” (NIV), “Lord of Armies” (CSB), or “Lord of Heaven’s Armies” (NLT). It means that God is sovereign over all other powers in the universe, including the British Empire.
The phrase “Lest we forget” comes from a warning given to the Israelites after they settled in the promised land. It says, “Then beware lest thou forget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage” (Dt. 6:12KJV). Or, “be careful not to forget the Lord, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt” (NLT). They were not to forget what God had done for them. But we know that the Israelites did forget God and followed idols.
So, in Recessional, “Lest we forget”, was a call to not forget God. But this song was also sung at remembrance services for those who died in warfare. And in this context, it was a call to not forget those who had given their lives for their country. In this context, the meaning of “ancient sacrifice” in the song changed from Christ’s death to the death of soldiers. This is an example of how words and phrases can change their meaning over time.
Lessons for us
As the Israelites were God’s people in Old Testament times, Christians are God’s people today. And like them, we are not to forget what God had done for us. We too can easily forget God and the ancient sacrifice of Christ for us. He gave up His life so we could have eternal life.
Let’s not be like the Israelites who forgot about God when they followed idols. Anything we can’t live without or must have is an idol that needs to be removed or put back in its place. An idol is anything that we give higher priority than God. Or anything that we think about more than we think about God.
“Lest we forget”. Don’t forget God!
Appendix A: Recessional
A poem by Rudyard Kipling (1897)
God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
The tumult and the shouting dies;
The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law —
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding, calls not Thee to guard,
For frantic boast and foolish word—
Thy mercy on Thy People, Lord!
Appendix B: Exegesis of Recessional
Kipling was a British poet who wrote verse for English readers. This poem was written over 120 years ago when the British Empire was a major world power. Some of the imagery used in the poem is drawn from the KJV Bible.
Their ancestors worshipped the God of the Bible.
Their armies trusted in this God.
They were in awe of the greatness, power and majesty of God.
They acknowledge that God helped them establish the British Empire.
They acknowledge God’s sovereign power and pray that He will continue to help them.
They are warned not to forget God.
The 60th anniversary celebrations for Queen Victoria will end. They are transient.
The military leaders will stop parading and the visiting dignitaries (kings of Europe) will return home.
But Christ’s ancient sacrifice endures.
God wants us to be humble rather than proud and boasting. We need to confess and repent of our arrogance and boasting. This may be derived from, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 51:17KJV). “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God” (NLT).
They acknowledge God’s sovereign power and pray that He will continue to help them.
They are warned not to forget God.
Although their Navy travels to far-away places, they can’t sustain their presence in these places.
Watch-post fires are extinguished as military personnel leave.
The 60th anniversary celebrations and the might of the British Empire is transient.
Like Nineveh and Tyre, the British empire will eventually decline and disappear. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire whose destruction by the Babylonians was predicted in the Bible (Nahum 1:1 – 3:19). Tyre was a powerful Phoenician city whose destruction by Alexander the Great was predicted in the Bible (Ezek. 26:1 – 28:19).
They acknowledge God will judge the nations and pray that He will spare them from judgment. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness (Gen. 18:20 – 19:29). The Bible teaches that God will judge nations according to their treatment of the Jews (Joel 3:1-16). And in many cases, sin brings its own judgment (Rom. 1:18-32).
They are warned not to forget God.
They are intoxicated with the idea of colonial power.
They have no awe of the greatness, power and majesty of God. Because of these two things, they say things they shouldn’t say.
Like the Russians and Germans, they boast of their achievements.
They also boast like the heathen in other lands who don’t have the benefit of knowing the Bible.
They acknowledge God’s sovereign power and pray that He will continue to help them.
They are warned not to forget God.
They are acting like the heathen in other lands who don’t have the benefit of knowing the Bible.
They trust in military might.
But all this is futile because it will end in dust! It is insignificant compared to the eternal nature of God.
They leave God out of their lives.
They claim to be God’s people. And they pray to God for forgiveness for their boasting and their foolish language.
Verses 3 and 5 say that they shouldn’t trust in human achievements because these don’t endure. They are fleeting.
Written, April 2018
Today there is a national election in Australia. Key election issues include: the economy, jobs, health, education and the environment. The political parties seeking election included the Greens, the Renewable Energy Party, the Animal Justice Party, and the Sustainable Australia Party. This post looks at the foundation of the ethics and morals of the environmental movement.
I gave this message at a conference in 1998. It’s based on the situation over 18 years ago. Although the examples are now historical, most modern examples would be similar in many ways. Many people are still concerned about the natural environment.
Concern for the environment and pollution affects us all: we see and hear about it in the daily news media, it’s taught at all levels of education, it affects all businesses in some way, governments pass more and more laws about it, and in 1996, the first national “State of the Environment” report said that, “Australians are among the most environmentally aware people in the world”.
My background is in science (physics and mathematics) and environmental science. I am a certified environmental auditor, who audits environmental management systems for industry and businesses. In this message I will present the results of an audit of the foundations of the environmental movement and of modern science. So we are looking at basic beliefs, values, viewpoints and assumptions. The findings will be compared to the Bible, which I believe is God’s guidebook for humanity.
Environmentalism involves concern for the physical world, such as advocating protection and conservation of the natural environment. It’s a complex and recent subject that has developed over the past 30 years.
Model of aspects of environmentalism
A schematic diagram of aspects of environmentalism provides a framework for this message. The two main aspects of environmentalism are the principles, which are what we believe, and the practices, which are what we do. Our principles (assumptions and values) have a strong influence on our behavior. That’s why they are sometimes called “guiding principles”. This message is focused on the principles that can drive environmentalism.
According to the Bruntland Report, “Our common future” (1987), “to achieve the goals of sustainable development, good environment, and decent standards of life for all involves very large changes in attitude”. Where do these attitudes come from? Our minds. If we are consistent, they are the principles that drive our practices. For example, if we believed in the golden rule (treat others as we would like them to treat us), then we would help others. Or, if we are selfish, we may ignore others or exploit them. But other things besides our principles can influence our behavior.
The schematic diagram shows how our assumptions and circumstances can also influence our behavior. For example, in the case of global warming; the principles are our worldview, values and ethics; the science is the mathematical models that predict temperatures and sea levels; the assumptions are those made in the scientific predictions; the circumstances are the technology available and the particular situation in each nation; and the practices are what each nation does in response to this issue.
In environmental auditing we begin by checking compliance with the organisation’s environmental policy because it contains their guiding principles, including philosophy, values, and ethics.
This message is focused on the principles of environmentalism and the assumptions of science. What are they? And, how do they compare with the Bible?
Principles of environmentalism
Environmentalism is based on a viewpoint that nature should be valued and protected. This is a pro-environment/conservation world view. Many world views have been explored in attempts to develop an ethical basis for environmentalism. There is range of viewpoints and philosophies within the environmental movement which overlap and can lead to conflicts. The three main categories of principles are based on the three main parts of our world. They are: human-centered, nature-centered, and God-centered.
Nature is our life support system; we depend on it for survival. So people have a self-interest in the preservation of their environments. It’s important because of its impact on people. For example, ozone depletion in the upper atmosphere can increase risk of skin cancer. So we want to protect stratospheric ozone.
The two main ideas in this approach are conservation and preservation. Nature is a resource that needs to be conserved for human needs. So, Government Forestry Services manage forests to maintain productivity. Nature also needs to be protected for the enjoyment of all people. For example, zoos and nature parks.
Sometimes people can have a negative impact on the environment. For example, the exploitation of nature without consideration for sustainability.
This introduces the idea that nature has intrinsic value – it should be preserved unless it conflicts with something of greater value. In this category we will look at two approaches: species centered and ecosystem centered.
The first approach says that species have rights or intrinsic value. For example, animal rights are promoted – as they have a value of their own, we should seek to minimise our impact on animals. This can lead to treating other species as though they were human. Stephen Gould advocates applying the golden rule to nature and the environment, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Lk. 6:31NIV). Similar rules exist in other religions as well. This means treating nature as we would want to be treated. But try applying this to an ant! It would be difficult avoiding killing an ant as we walk around.
The second approach acts for the good of all nature, not just human interests. This is more holistic as it involves the whole ecosystem/biosphere. This can lead to reverence for nature and wilderness, such as deep ecology. Here all natural things (ecosystems, life, landscape) have an intrinsic right to exist and there is a feeling of being connected with nature. This in turn can lead to Gaia theory (which is named after the ancient Greek earth goddess), where the earth is viewed as a single organism, like a living thing. It claims that evolution is not random, but is directed by Gaia.
These modern ideas are similar to ancient ones where nature has a spirituality. Animism is the belief that all natural objects and the universe possesses a soul. And pantheism is the belief that: God is not a personality, but a force; the universe exists of itself; all natural happenings are God, and that God is everything and everything is God; and Mother Nature replaces God.
Examples of these principles of environmentalism are given in the Appendix 1.
Problems with these principles of environmentalism
Human-centered environmentalism is not sufficient, as it omits much of the ecosphere. So most environmentalists have stopped using this approach.
Nature-centered environmentalism also has limitations, particularly with regard to species rights, sanctity of life and intrinsic value. For example: How can we determine priority between species? Is there a hierarchy of rights? Catastrophes (e.g. fires, droughts, storms, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes) that kill huge numbers of organisms are a part of nature. So nature can be destructive. It does not act as a perfect God, unless you believe in a God who can be evil. As species are interdependent (can be linked by a chain of dependence), this leads to saying that “all aspects of nature have intrinsic value” – but it is impossible to preserve everything. And it doesn’t help to solve day-to-day environmental problems.
We now turn to the Biblical viewpoint of the physical environment (values, principles, truths). We need to realize that the Bible contains basic principles which can be applied to all areas of our life. It contains God’s plans for the natural world (its history and its destiny) and how He intends us to live in it.
We will look at three Biblical principles here: creation, the gospel, and stewardship.
Doctrine of creation
This has two parts: God as creator, and God as sustainer. First, God created everything. “God made the world and everything in it” (Acts 17:24-28). “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Heb. 11:3). So God is the sole source of all that exists. “Everything God created is good” (1 Tim. 4:4). Jesus is “the author of life” (Acts 3:15), “He made the universe” (Heb. 1:2). “All things were created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16). “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good” (Gen 1:31) – Eden was paradise.
Creation is separate to the Creator. “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator” (Rom 1:25).
God owns creation. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Ps. 24:1).
The awe and beauty of nature. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–His eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).
The relationship between God, people and nature can be summarized as follows. God is infinite and personal. People are finite and personal. Animals, plants and machines are finite and impersonal. So humanity has special value, we share personality with God. We were made in God’s image, and people still have some of God’s image (Gen 9:6). Also, God came to earth as a man. So the Bible says that humans are both a part of nature (but not on the basis of biological unity), and apart from nature (like God). Nature is not our Mother, it is our brother and sister (as we are both created things).
“For this is what the LORD says– He who created the heavens, He is God; He who fashioned and made the earth, He founded it; He did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited” (Isa 45:18). So, creation has value because God made it and owns it.
Second, God sustains everything.
Jesus – “sustaining all things by His powerful word” (Heb. 1:3). “In Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight” (Heb. 4:13). So the bible teaches that God sustains natural processes. The creation is dependent on the Creator for its continuing existence.
This includes the forces that hold things together (such as nuclear forces and gravity). Without Him all things would fly apart! God also cares for birds and vegetation. “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Mt. 6:26). “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.” (Mt.6:28). “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you – you of little faith?” (Mt. 6:30).
We can view God’s power and presence in nature, like electricity flows through a wire. The wire is not the electricity, but it can be the vehicle through which the electricity flows. God is not nature and nature is not God. To think that would be a to think like a pantheist and not a Christian. But in this sense, God is in nature.
“Your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you … Therefore, honor God with your bodies” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Our bodies and senses should be used and appreciated for God. Similarly, all creation has been made by God and He sustains it, therefore, honor God as you interact and appreciate the physical world.
“Do not offer any part of yourself to sin, as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to Him as an instrument of righteousness” (Rom. 6:13). So the body and the physical world can be viewed as an instrument (or tool) which can be used for good or bad. We should honor God in our way of living in the material world – and work out what this means in the various areas of our life.
The gospel is the good news, that addresses the bad news. God created a perfect universe, but because of the fall into sin when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, the universe is now flawed. To fix the situation, God sent Jesus to enable redemption and restoration. Those who accept what Jesus did are promised eternal life in the new heaven and new earth, while those who reject it face eternal punishment.
The fall into sin led to suffering, decay and death (Gen. 3; Rom. 8). Genesis 3 is one of the most important chapters in the Bible. God cursed not only people, but also nature, because of human sin. It explains the problem of evil in our world, in both humanity and in nature. It’s the ultimate cause of environmental problems. We live in a fallen world, different to the original condition of “very good”. Nature is abnormal, and it can be destructive. Environmentalist try to stop death in the environment. The fall explains death.
Now looking at redemption and restoration. Christians are seen as being part of a new creation, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor. 5:17). Through Jesus, people can be reconciled to God. The biblical visions of the kingdom of God are visions of people in harmony with nature. The Bible teaches that the effects of the curse on nature will end and nature will be restored to its original splendor (it will be a sinless, deathless paradise, reconciled to God). Nature will also enjoy with Christians the effects of redemption.
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Rom. 8:18-25). So all of creation is looking for redemption by God; not by people like us.
Christians share the gospel message with many people, even though they know that probably only a few will respond. Likewise, Christians ought to be willing to care for the created world, even though they know that they can’t bring full restoration.
Our bodies and the physical world will be transformed one day (like Jesus after His resurrection). The restoration will be through Jesus; “to reconcile to Himself (God) all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven” (Col. 1:20). “Heaven must receive Him (Christ) until the time comes for God to restore everything, as He promised long ago through His holy prophets” (Acts 3:21). When God judges the ungodly, the earth will be destroyed by fire and replaced by a new heaven and a new earth (2 Pt. 3:7-13). And we “are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells”.
God will then live with mankind as in the Garden of Eden, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:1-8).
Doctrine of Stewardship
God told Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Gen 1:28). “Subdue” (“kabask” in Hebrew) means to conquer. “Rule” (“radah” in Hebrew) is generally used to describe the righteous and loving rule of a good and kind king. For example, King Solomon “ruled over all the kingdoms west of the Euphrates River, from Tiphsah to Gaza, and had peace on all sides. During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, everyone under their own vine and under their own fig tree” (1 Ki. 4:24-25).
God told Adam how this rule is to be carried out. “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work (“abad” in Hebrew) it and take care (“shama” in Hebrew) of it” (Gen. 2:15). Elsewhere “abad” is translated to “serve” (e.g. “we will serve the Lord”, Josh. 24:15) and “sharma” is translated to “keep”, “watch” or “preserve” (e.g. “The Lord bless you and keep you”, Num. 6:24). God keeps His people in such a way to demonstrate His great love and care. All this was given before the fall of man, so there is no suggestion of evil or exploitation of nature here. So, Adam managed the garden of Eden. Before the fall there was perfect harmony between humanity and the environment.
As God owns the world, Christians can be seen as His stewards (or managers, a delegated authority). A “steward” is a manager of a household (e.g. Lk. 16:1-9). Peter also used it as a metaphor for believers, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Pt. 4:10).
Stewardship means caring for creation as God would. And we are accountable to God. For example, in the Old Testament there was a Sabbath rest for animals and a Sabbath year rest for agricultural land (Ex. 20:10; 23:10-11).
The assumptions of modern science
Science provides a useful method for finding out things about the way the world works. The assumptions and boundaries of “science” largely determine the findings of science. Only theories consistent with these are acceptable to science. We will look at three major assumptions of science.
Doctrine of Naturalism
Science assumes a naturalistic world where the physical universe is all that exists. Nature is all there is. So, everything is explained in terms of mechanical processes. God only exists as an idea in the minds of religious believers. Naturalism is associated with: materialism -there is only matter (no unseen world of souls, spirits or deities) and atheism – there is no God. This limits science to naturalistic theories. As science excludes the supernatural (by definition), a model or explanation that incorporates supernatural intervention (e.g. creative intelligence), cannot be called “scientific”. Therefore, “Creation science” is impossible. As a result, science is unable to disprove the spiritual, as whatever it discovers is “natural” by definition.
Doctrine of Evolution
Science assumes an evolving world (mainly because the only alternative is an act of creation by a God). Mutation and selection are assumed to be the driving forces of evolution. As naturalism and evolution are assumptions of science, science cannot be used to prove these.
Examples of these doctrines of science are given in the Appendix 2.
Doctrine of Uniformity
Science usually assumes the present is the key to the past and the future. Sometimes there is immense extrapolation into the past (e.g. speculation on the origin of life) and into the future (e.g. speculation on global warming), without proper consideration of assumptions and uncertainty. I call this speculative science. It fails to recognize that many deep questions are unanswered and will probably never be definitively answered, given the limits of science. For example, how was the universe created?
Consequences for Christianity
Once science was based on what was able to be observed, repeated and tested. But these assumptions have been added in such a way that anything outside this scope is deemed to be unscientific and false. When applied to situations outside the scope of observational science, this approach renders all other viewpoints false. For example, it means that there is no need to prove that evolution happened. Instead they just say that it happened with no need for a rigorous proof. In this way, science has used evolution to destroy Christianity. This is explained below.
Biblical viewpoint of evolution
Putting the doctrine of evolution (one of the assumptions of modern science) to the test. The Bible contains three clear tests for determining what is true and false:
The Jesus test: Who was Jesus Christ?
“This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God …. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood” (1 Jn. 4:2-6).
The gospel test: Is it a different gospel?
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel–which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” (Gal. 1:6-8).
The fruit test: What kind of fruit is evident?
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. … Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them” (Mt. 7:15-20).
Here’s how evolution goes in these tests.
The Jesus test
According to evolution, there is no need for a Savior. Jesus was only a human being, not divine. He was not the Creator (as there is no need for one), or the “second Adam”, as there was no Adam who disobeyed God in the first place. So, it fails the Jesus test.
The gospel test
The gospel according to evolution is compared with the gospel according to the Bible in the schematic diagram. This shows they are totally different. And evolution undermines all aspects of the gospel – all basic Biblical truths.
Evolution provides a new creation story, “As a story of creation, the book of Genesis long ago crumbled under the weight of science, notably Darwin’s theory of natural selection“ (Time, 4 Nov. 1996, p80).
If evolution is true, then death and suffering is not the result of sin. “According to Genesis, nature is in essence benign … But according to Darwinism, the evil in nature lies at its very roots, instilled by its creator, natural selection” (Time, 4 Nov. 1996, p81). The biological roots of sin are attributed to impulses that arose by natural selection and that were then inherited as they enhanced the chances of survival and reproduction. This means that sin, death and suffering are an inherent part of nature from the beginning of time.
So there is no need for a Savior and heaven and hell don’t exist. Its message is that “salvation comes through science”.
The fruit test – the fruits of evolution
The idea of evolution supports and is associated with: naturalism, materialism, atheism, humanism (humanity is self-sufficient; capable of solving all his difficulties), and pantheism.
Acceptance of the idea of evolution leads to the following:
Less value on human life (practices such as abortion and euthanasia are more acceptable). Another example from the past is racism (e.g. Australian Aboriginals were considered to be biologically inferior to Europeans. This was justified by biological determinism promoted by evolutionary anthropology).
Less value on family life (marriage less important, divorce is more acceptable)
Less value on morals (truth is now relative, not absolute).
A “might is right” attitude, which supports the strong, but not the weak (survival of the fittest, a competitive world, compassion involves saving “weak genes”).
These are fruits of the sinful nature, not the divine nature. So the doctrine of evolution is a major cause behind many of the problems in our society.
Results of the tests
So the “doctrine of evolution” fails all three Biblical tests. This means it’s a false doctrine, an idol, the creation story and religion of modern science.
Secular environmentalism represents a new religion (see schematic diagram). By trying to introduce ethics and morals into a world that has discarded the Bible, most environmentalists adopt ethics which are centered on humanity or nature and they follow the idols of: humanism, atheism or pantheism. These are all justified by belief in evolution (which is also an idol). Idolatry is following ideas that replace the Creator God. Although they claim to be wise, such environmentalists are foolish because their actions are based on a lie (a false idea) (Rom. 1:22, 25). Due to the influence of these philosophies, claims are often made in the name of science that go far beyond the available evidence.
But the Bible gives us a God-centered view of the world, it reveals the Creator, and gives us responsibility to care for the creation as God’s stewards. Biblical environmentalism (see schematic diagram) can be based on Biblical principles and assumptions. The principles include: creation, sustenance, the fall (these three show that in some respects, the past is the key to the present), redemption, restoration and stewardship. Besides the natural world, this assumes the supernatural (there is more than the physical world), special creation (which can’t be explained by current laws), and possible catastrophes (so we need to be careful when extrapolating). Let’s care for creation as God’s stewards (or managers).
Examples of principles of environmentalism
The Rio declaration on Environment and development (1992) has 27 principles, including:
Principle 1 “Human beings are at the center of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature” – Human centered
Principle 3 “The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet development and environmental needs of present and future generations” – Human centered
Principle 7 “States shall cooperate in a spirit of global partnership to conserve, protect and restore the health and integrity of the earth’s ecosystem” – Ecosystem centered
Agenda 21 is the program to implement the Rio declaration. It proposes a program for action for sustainable development. Its Preamble says:
“Humanity stands at a defining moment in history. We are confronted with a perpetuation of disparities between and within nations, a worsening of poverty, hunger, ill health and illiteracy, and the continuing deterioration of the ecosystems on which we depend for our well-being. However, integration of environment and development concerns and greater attention to them will lead to the fulfilment of basic needs, improved living standards for all, better protected and managed ecosystems and a safer, more prosperous future” – Human centered
The National “State of the Environment” report says, “Preserving Australia’s biodiversity is important for four reasons”. One of these is Ethics which means that “no species and no generation has the right to remove earth’s resources solely for its own benefit” – Nature centered
The objectives of the NSW EPA include:
“reduce the risks to human health and prevent the degradation of the environment” – Human centered, and “achieve Ecologically Sustainable Development by implementing: the precautionary principle (being cautious), intergenerational equity (protect the environment for future generations)” – Human centered, “conservation of biological diversity & ecological integrity” – Species & ecosystem centered and “improved valuation & pricing of environmental resources” (using economics).
Greenpeace’s philosophy is:
“Ecology teaches us that humankind is not the center of life on the planet. Ecology has taught us that the whole earth is part of our body, and that we must learn to respect it as we respect ourselves. As we feel for ourselves, we must feel for all forms of life – the whales, the seals, the forests, the seas. The tremendous beauty of ecological thought is that it shows us a pathway back to an understanding and an appreciation of life itself – and understanding and appreciation that is imperative to that very way of life” – Ecosystem centered, leading to pantheism.
The Australian Conservation Foundation Mission is loaded with evolutionary assumptions:
“The conservation ethic reveres the enormous sweep and splendor of life, through three million millennia of geological time and its spread into many millions of diverse species and habitats. It is conscious that Homo sapiens is but a relative newcomer. From this perspective, it seeks to approach other species and their environments with humility and without arrogance” – Nature centered, reveres evolution
“It seeks to sustain diverse and active living communities in which non-human life can resume, in comparative tranquillity, the ponderous process of evolution which has been so disrupted and confused by the interruption of man” – Nature centered
“Intrinsic to the ethic is the recognition that human life is an integral part of this slow, inexorable and continuing evolutionary process; that our own adaption results from it and our destiny is tied to its continuance; our genes carry chemical messages shared with many other species now living and with many progenitors extending back to the beginning of life. Consequently, conformity with the conservation ethic confers benefits on humanity in terms of greater efficiency and satisfaction in meeting basic human needs and producing more resilient, supportive and fulfilling communities” – link to Human centered via evolution
“Against these threats, conservation seeks to hold the earth in trust for future generations, both human and non-human” – Ecosystem centered,
The UN Environment Program: “Caring for natural resources and promoting their sustainable use is an essential response of the world community to ensure its own survival and well-being” – Human centered
The Director General of UNESCO: “Unlike modern industrial society, many traditional cultures promote not only the need but the sacred duty for people to live in symbiosis with their natural environment … Our greatest need at the present time is perhaps for a global ethic – transcending all other systems of allegiance and belief – rooted in the consciousness of the interrelatedness and sanctify of all life. Such an ethic would tamper humanities acquired knowledge and power with wisdom of the kind found at the heart of the most ancient human traditions and cultures – in Taoism and Zen (Buddhist), in the understandings of the Hopi and the Maya Indians, in the Vedas (Hindu scripture) and the Psalms, in the very origins of human culture itself” – Ecosystem centered, leading to pantheism & other religions
“The theme of Theodore Roszak’s book The Voice of the Earth is our relationship to the natural world … He proposes a new relationship to nature, one based on modern science which regards the world as a living organism, a dynamic system with the capacity to self-regulate … possible solutions which Roszak envisions in an ecologically-grounded form of animism … The motivation for change on a planetary level must rise from deep within. This is where we must hear the voice of the earth, as she expresses herself through us as a genuine person need for a new quality of life. Her voice can bring us in contact with the ecological unconscious, the parts of the soul that we have lost touch with. What are needed are ‘ecological goals that can heal the psyche, psychological values that can heal the planet’” (Habitat May 94, p53) – Pantheism
Examples the doctrines of science (in the field of ecology)
“Nature in its infinite wisdom gave our animals soft feet so they would be gentle on Australia’s fragile soils” (Habitat, Dec 96, p5).
“Throughout evolution, only two kinds of eyes have ever been invented. One is the vertebrate eye, which works like a single-lens camera; the other is the compound eye of insects and crustaceans” (NA, Winter 97, p34).
“Some animals have evolved to look like other animals or even plants, thereby reducing predator pressure” (NA, Autumn 96, p8).
“We’re the dominant species on the planet; at the top of the food chain; at the top of the evolutionary tree. The way we got there is by being incredibly ruthless and self-centered” (NA, Autumn 96, p47).
“Frogs worldwide have evolved almost 30 different ways of reproducing” (NA, Summer 94-95, p64).
“As a group, spiders have developed an astounding array of techniques to capture and immobilize their prey” (NA, Spring 94, p17).
“The ‘apeman’ – australopithecines – did not die out. We are those apemen, just as living apes are members of the group from which they descended. In the same way, dinosaurs didn’t die out – they are still alive and kicking as birds. All that’s happened is an evolutionary change through time in the shape of the creatures in these long-lasting lineages” (NA, Winter 94, p68).
An academic – Judith Kinnear (Sydney University Gazette, Apr 96, p25)
“The Darwinian model of evolution by natural selection enriches many of my everyday experiences: my walks in the Australian bush make me ponder a unique flora that evolved after the break-up of the Gondwana super-continent; my visits to the zoo reveal the living products of divergent evolution that fall into an orderly pattern; my viewing of a TV program on the appearance of antibiotic resistance in harmless bacteria transforming them into untreatable killers reminds me of the ongoing impact of evolutionary forces”. This shows that the doctrine of evolution is now embedded in our society. Everyone is indoctrinated in it so that it’s a worldview or paradigm and like a religion.
Written, January 1998; Posted, July 2016
Evaluating a common belief
In part one we applied three tests to determine that evolution is inconsistent with the Bible. In part two we will look more closely at the error of evolution and the truth of creation.
Did God Use Evolution?
It is clear that the theory of evolution, as taught in schools and universities and applied across the world, has no need for a Creator or God. But what about the possibility that God used evolution to create life after all? Can an evolutionary model be accommodated with the Bible? When we apply the three tests, this possibility may appear to pass the Jesus test. But the second question in the gospel test presents a challenge: Does it acknowledge our sinfulness?
The Bible teaches that sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, and that it brought death to mankind (Rom. 5:12; 6:23). Adam was told “to dust you will return” (Gen. 3:19). This was the origin of decay and death in our world. It affected all of God’s creation, so that it was “subjected to frustration,” is “in bondage to decay,” and is “groaning as in the pains of childbirth” (Rom. 8:20-22). This is suggested in God’s words to Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you,” and “It will produce thorns and thistles for you” (Gen. 3:17-18). The implication is that before this time in history there was no decay or death. This is consistent with the statement that the creation was “very good” (Gen. 1:31).
In contrast, the evolutionary explanation of life assumes death has existed from the beginning of life, long before mankind was present. In fact, the theory of evolution relies on the death of many generations and claims that this is supported by fossils.
I can see no way of fitting the origin of sin and death as described in the Bible into the evolutionary explanation for life or vice versa, without disregarding essential parts of either. The Bible teaches that death is a consequence of mankind’s sin, whereas according to evolution death is merely a characteristic of the natural world.
The Bible and the theory of evolution also differ concerning the last point in the gospel test, the restoration of all things. Scripture states that Christ “must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as He promised long ago through His holy prophets” (Acts 3:21). Although this may refer to the restoration of the nation of Israel (Acts 1:6), it is also consistent with the liberation from decay that all creation anticipates; a return to a time of no more sin or death, like it was before Adam and Eve sinned (Isa. 25:8; Rom. 8:21; 1 Cor. 15:26; Rev. 21:4). Christ called this the “renewal of all things” (Mt. 19:28). It has also been described as “paradise,” a word that is linked via the tree of life to the garden of Eden and to heaven (Gen. 2:9; Rev. 2:7; 22:2).
On the other hand, according to the theory of evolution there was no paradise at the beginning of time. This is inconsistent with a “restoration” or “renewal” to paradise at the end of time. So one can believe in either “evolution” or “paradise” but not both, because they are contradictory.
So to believe that God used evolution is inconsistent with either the Bible or the evolutionary model. It usually results in compromising the Christian faith and leads to a “different gospel,” where the words of “sin” and “Savior” have a different meaning from the Bible (Gal. 1:6-9). The Bible warns that those who add to or take away from the true gospel will be eternally condemned (Gal. 1:8-9).
Some debate as to whether Genesis 1 and 2 are literal or symbolic. This is answered best by comparing them with what the rest of the Bible says about the topics raised in these chapters. Scripture should be used to interpret Scripture whenever possible.
Adam is included in Joseph’s genealogy (Lk. 3:38) and is referred to as a real man like Moses, Enoch and Christ (Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:22,45; 1 Tim. 2:13,14; Jude 14), while Eve is also mentioned as a real woman in the New Testament (2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:13). The description of the creation of Eve in 1 Corinthians 11:8-12 and 1 Timothy 2:13 is consistent with Genesis 2:21-23. The Bible teaches that sin and death came through one man, Adam; just as salvation came through one man, Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:12,15-19; 1 Cor. 15:21-22). The origin of marriage described in Genesis 2:24 is quoted in Mark 10:7-8 and Ephesians 5:31. Peter’s description of creation in 2 Peter 3:5 is consistent with Genesis 1:6-9. These examples show that the New Testament writers treated the events and people in Genesis 1 and 2 as being true history and not poetic or metaphoric.
A Modern Idol
As shown above, the naturalistic view of origins is in conflict with the Bible and it undermines Christianity. As such it is a “deceptive philosophy” that is “falsely called knowledge” (Col. 2:8; 1 Tim. 6:20-21). Unfortunately it has deceived many and has caused many minds to be led astray (2 Cor. 11:3). It is a modern myth and false worldview that is based on false assumptions.
The consequence of rejecting the truth of the gospel is to believe a lie, such as evolution, and worship part of God’s creation (Rom. 1:18-25). An idol is a false god or a false idea that lacks substance (Gal. 4:8-9). Although we may not worship images as was done in Athens, idolatry is prevalent today and the idea of evolution is a major idol of our times (Acts 17:22-23). Idolatry and the widely-held theory of evolution are both substitutes for the concept of the Creator God. Christians are warned to “Keep yourselves from idols” and “flee from idolatry” because they enslave us (1 Cor. 10:14; Gal. 4:8-9; 1 Jn. 5:21).
Furthermore, the leading evolutionists are particularly opposed to Christianity. In fact, evolution functions as a rallying point against Christianity. In view of the above, if we could be addressed by two New Testament figures, Paul and Christ, I could imagine Paul saying, “People of 2001, I see you are devoted to the theory of evolution,” and Christ warning, “Be on your guard against the cancer of evolution” (Acts 17:22; Mt. 16:6).
The Evolution Of Words
The English word “evolve” is derived from a Latin word that means to unroll or to unfold. In this sense it means to grow or mature, which involves no change in genetic information. However, the wide acceptance of the evolutionary explanation of the origin of life has led to the use of the word “evolution” to replace words such as “change” and “development.” For example, “the evolution of the airplane.” This is an example of a change in the meaning of a word over time.
Another word that has changed its meaning is “science” which comes from the Latin word for “knowledge.” The meaning of “science” has changed over time, from dealing with things that are observable and testable, to mean “naturalism” – a mechanistic view of the world. As a consequence, some science is only loosely based on what is observable and testable, and claims are often made in the name of “science” that go far beyond the available evidence. This has led to aspects of modern science becoming increasingly tenuous and speculative by including conjecture and dubious hypotheses.
Although we live in a “cause and effect” universe, ultimate causes, such as origins, are outside the realm of reliable science. Science can only reliably deal with the present world, and some aspects of the past and the future. It can’t reliably deal with the distant past, such as origins, or the long-term future, such as ultimate destinies, as it cannot directly observe these. All scientists should be wary of their assumptions, as these can largely determine their findings. They should also be wary of extrapolations outside the range of their observations. The further the extrapolation the less reliable the prediction, because changes made in the assumptions outside the range of observations will change the prediction. This applies in particular to boundary conditions, such as those involving initial conditions or origins. Therefore, scientists can only speculate, imagine and guess about the origin of life.
The complexity of life on earth points to an intelligent designer and creator. The Bible says that Christ is the author of life; He made all things and continues to sustain everything (Jn. 1:3; Acts 3:15, Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2-3). Evolution begins with matter, but where did this come from? The only reasonable answer possible for those following this viewpoint is to say that matter has always existed and is eternal. On the other hand, the Bible begins with God who is eternal and has the power to create matter out of nothing and to create the complex design that is evident in life and the universe. After all, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Heb. 11:3).
The Bible implies that there are clear genetic distinctions between the groups of creatures on earth. God created them “according to their kinds” and “All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another” (Gen. 1:21,24-25; 1 Cor. 15:39). It emphasizes that humanity is unique in the sense of being made “in the image of God” (Gen. 1:27). There is no suggestion of all life having a common ancestry.
It is not surprising that not all will accept the biblical account of origins, as Christians are warned that some will “distort the truth” (Acts 20:30), and others suppress and reject the truth in order to promote lies and myths (Rom. 1:18,25; 2:8; 2 Tim. 4:4). We should be alert as “even Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). Don’t be deceived or accept explanations, ideas or philosophies without checking them against the Scriptures. Seek the truth by asking questions such as those in the three tests outlined in part one of this article. Be a critical thinker, have a discerning mind.
See Part 1 of this article:
– The idol of evolution: Part 1