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The Gospel According to Charles
In Defense of the Faith
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Wendy Wippel

Last Sunday, a special Sunday, saw many churches across the US (and the world) join together to celebrate one man’s contributions to the Christian faith. Hoped you missed it, as the man celebrated was not Jesus. Not Peter or Paul, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and or John. So who was the honoree? Charles. Charles Darwin. 

Yep, last week was Evolution Sunday, held each year on the Sunday closest to Darwin’s birthday, February 12.

The concept of celebrating Darwin in “Christian” churches started with Michael Zimmerman, a Ph.D, in ecology, and now Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Zimmerman got involved in the debate regarding the creation/evolution issue in 2004 when the state of Wisconsin adopted a school curriculum that promoted the theory of evolution, and a lot of Wisconsin’s Christians objected. Zimmerman was asked to weigh in, as the voice of science, on the side of evolution. 

But a funny thing happened. The statement Zimmerman wrote in defense of teaching evolution in Wisconsin schools got lots of unexpected support from Wisconsin’s clergy.

Gratified by this outpouring of unexpected allies, Zimmerman decided that scientists could leverage this group of “Christian” apostles of Darwin in order to further the cause of evolution and maybe, once and for all, rid the world of people who understood the Genesis account of creation as a scientifically accurate account of the creation of the universe and of man. So he founded a group intended ultimately to persuade the people in America’s pews—at least, the dwindling numbers of the faithful who still accept the Bible as God’s infallible word--to abandon faith and to accept the idea that science has proven Darwin’s theory of evolution correct.  A movement with the goal of finally getting the people in the pews to accept that Genesis is nothing more than primitive mythology and with a methodology of using their pastors to make the change.

In Zimmerman’s own words:

For too long, the misperception that science and religion are inevitably in conflict has created unnecessary division and confusion, especially concerning the teaching of evolution. I wanted to let the public know that numerous clergy from most denominations have tremendous respect for evolutionary theory and have embraced it as a core component of human knowledge, fully harmonious with religious faith.”

A movement that, to that end, sponsors two initiatives:

First, the Clergy Letter Project, which asks pastors to sign a statement confirming their belief that evolution is completely compatible with the Christian faith,

Second, Evolution Sunday—a day for those aforesaid members of the clergy to enlighten their congregations by sermons that help them see that Genesis was never actually intended to be an explanation of how the world came to be.  That evolution and faith in the God of the Bible are completely compatible.  That;

“"Religious people from many diverse faith traditions and locations around the world understand that evolution is quite simply sound science; and for them, it does not in any way threaten, demean, or diminish their faith in God.”

The Letter that Christian clergy (using the term Christian loosely) sign is this:

"By taking this perspective, Clergy Letter Project participants; demonstrate that when some define religion so narrowly that it is categorically opposed to evolutionary ideas, or any of the findings of science, it both demeans and diminishes religion. As members of The Clergy Letter Project have stated so often and so clearly, this narrow perspective is at odds with the broader conception of religion held by thousands upon thousands of religious leaders."

Within the community of Christian believers, there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.

We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as "one theory among others" is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God's good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God's loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.[7

Last week. nearly a thousand celebrated Evolution Sunday, and according to the Clergy Letter Project, nearly 15,000 Christian clergy have signed this statement.

More than 500 rabbis have signed the Jewish version as well. AS well as some Buddhist monks. And in the name of “inclusion” and "diversity” the celebration of Evolution Sunday has broadened to Evolution weekend.

(Shocker, right? ) 

And according to its proponents, Evolution Sunday actually has religious benefits.:

In the light of evolution, people find they appreciate Creation more fully, and that their hope is based on reason, not merely wishful thinking.

It may be incomprehensible to people who have grown up in a progressive faith where evolution and religion have never been at odds to understand the pain and confusion of those who grow up Evolution Sunday shows people that they don’t have to choose between God and science:

Still today, millions of Americans think they must choose. And in this choosing, some lose faith in science while the others lose faith not only in God, but in themselves. …Jesus never mentioned evolution, why should we? But Jesus did say that it was our responsibility to heal the poor, and that includes the poor in spirit. Are not the 20% of Americans who suffer depression at some time in their life poor? Many of these are impoverished in spirit because of the false doctrine that evolution means God is a delusion, that religion is evil, and that life has no meaning or purpose.

Translation: people who accepted the Biblical account of creation are now poor in spirit because since science has proven it wrong, so Evolution Sunday is ministering to them. 

“The purpose of religion is to “orient people toward the cosmos in a way that they feel they belong.” People now realize that they are in a huge and evolving cosmos, and for many this disorientation leads to existential angst. Perhaps there are few more important worship services, than those that help people feel like they belong to a meaningful cosmos”.

All I’m going to say about that is that it makes my skin crawl. The Bible says there are principalities, authorities, thrones, rulers, powers in the heavenly places. And in all five places where these heavenly forces are mentioned (Romans 8:37-39, Colossians 1:16 and 2:25, Ephesians 3:10-11 and Ephesians 6:12), it is clear that at least some of them are demonic. 

"Evolution Sunday works in healing souls. One 70 year-old man, who had attended church most of his life, after reconciling evolution with faith, for the first time in his life, felt his prayers were truly connecting with God. He was no longer trying to reach out to a man in a long white beard. Another woman reported that he Evolution Sunday service healed some wounds inflicted in her youth. She was thrilled that children in her congregation would learn right from the start that evolution is compatible with faith.”

I once had somebody at Ohio State tell me that they were a Christian, and then explained their salvation experience as being at a concert when the curtains caught fire. 

What can I say? Except that the Scriptures tell us that the Devil masquerades as an angel of light.  And obviously there’s a lot of that going around here.

The Scriptures tell us some other things too. First, that the Bible isn’t a buffet. You don’t go down the line and pick and choose.  (All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof , for correction and for training in righteousness. Right? II Timothy 3:16)

Even more intriguingly, it addresses this specific issue directly: “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” John 3:12 Any pastor (or Rabbi, or Monk) that tells you to ignore one or the other should be a big red flag.

Because the Bible also tells us exactly where the end begins:

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, And many will follow their destructive ways,….  1 Peter 2, 2.

Anybody else hear his footsteps at the door?

About Wendy Wippel

Last week: The Number of His Name



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