Introduction and purpose of this letter
The human appendix has been at the center of a debate that has raged for over a century between those who adhere to mainstream scientific thinking about the origins of the diversity of life on this planet and those who adhere to a Biblical interpretation which differs from that of mainstream science. As the senior investigator on a recent scientific publication describing the apparent function of the human appendix (1), and as a very active member of an evangelical church since childhood, I find myself in a unique position to comment on certain issues relating to the intersection between faith and science.
To date, I have published almost 100 scientific works, the majority of those being peer-reviewed articles. These works are based on my formal training and my professional experience, and are freely available to other scientists who wish to use my work and ideas to help them advance their own work, and also for those scientists who wish to question the validity of my work and ideas. These uses of my published work are a necessary part of the scientific process. The scientific community has an abundance of truly brilliant people, all devoting much of their life to science, and all trying to come to the truth about the universe, using peer reviewed publications and scientific meetings as the tool to achieve the goal. The pursuit of science is intellectual, and the evaluation of science takes place in the intellectual domain. This is the nature of science.
It will be obvious to the reader that the
following letter is not about science. What will perhaps be less
obvious is that this letter is not an academic article. What will
even be counter-intuitive to some is that this letter is not being
made available for the purpose of intellectual analysis. Certainly
it can be analyzed intellectually, but intellectual analysis is not
the way to handle the sort of information presented in this article.
It is a mistake to handle information that deals with the Kingdom of
Heaven using the human intellect. This letter did not, I perceive,
originate from my intellect, and it is written for the spiritual
being, not the intellectual being. The letter was not written
because I have impeccable theological credentials from a wonderful
school of theology, and because I used that impeccable training to
conduct what I think is a proper analysis of some important data.
The fact is that I have no formal credentials in theology. However,
I have been walking with Jesus for a while now, and like the
fishermen of the New Testament who also walked with Jesus, I often
find God moving in wonderful ways as I speak on matters in which I
have no formal training. Like those fishermen, I know that whatever
good there is in my words is from Jesus, not me.
To be clear and plain, my claim is that this letter presents information that is inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. I believe this claim, and there is only one way to judge such a claim. Praying, not thinking, is needed. If the reader wants to know if this letter might be helpful, the reader must take this letter to God, and ask God if He has a message in the letter for him or her. I know that this letter is not for everybody, and that the entire letter may not be for most people. However, if the reader approaches God with this letter and an open heart, God may speak to the reader about some truth in this letter that will be helpful. That is my hope and prayer as I write this. If you are unsure of the Shepherd’s voice in your daily life, you may need to take a step back from apologetics and draw closer to the Shepherd before praying about this letter. I would suggest some of the books cited in Note # 8 at the bottom of this letter. Each of those books is written from a different perspective, so you may need to try a few before you find one that is written in a way that ministers to you. My personal favorite is Joy Dawson’s book.
If you are willing to take a huge leap of faith (more or less jumping off into the deep end of the pool with God), then I would suggest the book “Want More?”, by Tim Enloe. That information will help you receive a good dunking in the Spirit of God to get you started on the path of walking daily in the Spirit of God. I know that a “good dunking” doesn’t agree with the thinking of some people in the church. I don’t understand this viewpoint, I must admit. For the people who have visited a certain place, the existence of that place is no longer a matter of intellectual debate. It is a fact of experience. Debate is irrelevant. There is no point in telling me that there should be no deep end to the pool, because I have been in the deep end of the pool. For those who have never heard a mostly valid theological explanation of the “dunking” in the Spirit of God and desire to receive an explanation, check out either “The Spirit-Filled Believer’s Handbook” by Derek Prince, or “The Holy Spirit, A Pentecostal Interpretation”, by L. Thomas Holdcroft. Try the dunking if you are ready for anything God has. It was helpful almost 2000 years ago in a certain upper room, it has been helpful between then and now, and it is still helpful today. If you’ve received that dunking, and if you avoid the temptation to get dried off, searching through this letter to find whatever message God has for you will be easy, and you won’t be caught up in the type of intellectual analysis that is useful for the kingdoms of this world, but not for the Kingdom of Heaven.
The human appendix and where it fits in the creation/evolution debate.
To begin this perspective, it is necessary to describe very briefly the nature of the aforementioned debate surrounding the appendix. The number of individuals who discount the mainstream scientific views regarding evolution are not few in number: A recent (May, 2007) Gallup Poll showed that more than 40 % of the population in the United States believes in an “anti-evolutionism” that does not acknowledge the idea accepted by mainstream science that life on planet Earth has evolved from less complex life forms. For the purpose of this letter, I will simply refer to those individuals as “anti-evolutionists”, although I realize this term is not precise if taken out of context. On the other side of the debate, the same poll showed that more than 50 % of the same population accepts a role of evolution in the origin of species as described by modern science, with almost three-quarters of those believing that God was involved in the process.
For the purpose of this letter, the many subtleties and details surrounding the debate about how the human appendix fits into the evolution/anti-evolution debate are not important. However, a brief and thus very simplified description of the debate is helpful and can be described as follows: Removal of the appendix from the human body appears to have no adverse consequences, and no apparent function of the human appendix had been identified by main-stream science prior to 2007. However, the appendix appears to be similar in many regards to a part of the anatomy (the cecum), which has a known digestive function in many non-human mammals. Thus, mainstream science concluded that the appendix is apparently a “leftover” from the evolutionary process, having been used in our evolutionary past but no longer needed at the present time. Whether or not the human appendix was actually a leftover remained a matter of uncertainty among scientists, since the scientific community considered evidence from several fields of study that did not conclusively point toward the appendix as being a leftover. However, because no known function for the appendix had been identified, and because it was conceivable to main-stream science that the human appendix was the evolutionary remnant of a cecum, the idea persisted that the appendix was a leftover from evolution. On the other hand, anti-evolutionists countered with the idea that the human appendix has some function because God created humans independent of any evolutionary process, and God would not have included an appendix in the body if it had no purpose.
The apparent function of the appendix.
New insights into the field of gut immunology (2) in conjunction with a technical advance in microscopic examination of the microbial flora of the intact gut (3) brought to light the apparent function of the appendix, as well as the reason that removal of the structure has no apparent ill effects. That function, ideally suited for the worm-like shape and the location of the human appendix, apparently involves maintenance of a reserve supply of beneficial bacteria to aid the human body in recovery from bouts with severe diarrhea (1), which are not only rare but are easily treated by medical intervention in countries where modern sanitation and hygienic practices are the rule. In contrast, diarrheal illness is one of the leading killers of children in developing countries (4), indicating that the presence of an appendix probably has a survival advantage in those situations. Further, work published in the 1980’s indicates that modern sanitation and other hygienic practices lead to changes in the immune system, which in turn probably cause appendicitis (5). Thus, we now apparently understand that most humans prior to the industrial revolution probably needed their appendix to aid in recovery from common illnesses, and we understand why humans living in societies with modern sanitation and hygienic practices do not need their appendix, and, in fact, why those appendixes must actually be removed in a significant percentage of the population.
Religious belief and science in collision?
I intend to write this next section without providing any scientific information that could be used in a debate regarding the origins of species. Such information would be counterproductive in this letter, since a significant fraction of the readers may be interested in the anti-evolution/evolution debate, and thus any mention of scientific information will set off a flurry of intellectual activity that is aside from the point I desire to make. The issue I’m driving at here is, how and why are the minds of young people and even some older people being turned away from God by scientific theories. To address this issue, I first need to explain why main-stream scientific theories keep advancing and overtaking anti-evolution views in the minds of many young students (and even some older people as well) who have been well indoctrinated in an anti-evolution point of view.
Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that a student in my laboratory or in my classroom asks me about evolutionary vestiges from my perspective as a scientist. The student is asking if I have any insight as a professional scientist which extends beyond text-book information. In addressing this student’s question, first I would point out to the student that I am not an evolutionary biologist. That is not my training, and I have no expertise in that field. Rather, I have a PhD in chemistry, and have gained expertise (evidenced by substantial numbers of peer-reviewed publications) in the fields of biochemistry and immunology. My laboratory discovered the apparent function of the human appendix as a result of work in immunology, not by trying to test any premise put forth by evolutionary biologists about the human appendix. Thus, I would point out to this student that I am not at all qualified to say anything original with scientific authority regarding organs or other tissues that do or do not appear to be “left over” from evolution. I can quote from a textbook, and I can summarize some information that I have obtained from my collaborators (colleagues working with me in scientific ventures) with expertise in evolutionary biology, but that sort of information is second hand and is not the most authoritative. If I perceived that the student was genuinely curious and wanted to know everything I could possibly tell them, then I could still authoritatively address the issue beyond what is found in a standard textbook. To provide the most authoritative answer humanly possible, I could describe one particular area of research that has garnered much of my scientific interest over the past 15 years. This particular area of my professional interest is related to a type of genetic information considered by main-stream science to be a vestige of evolution. I will not provide any details about that genetic information here, because a debate over that topic would be counterproductive to the purpose of this letter. I realize that many anti-evolutionists do not accept any genetic evidence for evolution, and detailed discussions over this and many related scientific topics are readily available in a variety of resources discussing the evolution/anti-evolution controversy. Such discussion is not the purpose of this letter. The point here is, if the student was really interested in a truly detailed answer that was based on years of work, I could tell him or her about that genetic evidence that I have worked on personally. That would be a nice way for me to explain to the student about vestiges of evolution, if I wanted to provide that student with an expert perspective beyond the scientific textbooks and other second hand information.
In the hypothetical situation described above, the student is going to make a determination in his or her mind about whether or not I can be trusted. They are going to decide if I am pushing for some hidden agenda, or if I am simply passionate about science. They are going to decide whether or not I’m an elitist who refuses to listen to opposing points of view that might undermine my work, or if I’m objectively assessing the available information to the best of my ability. They are going to decide if I’m not really sure about things and have been railroaded into conformity by a sheep mentality, or if I’m really excited by paradigm shifts based on exciting new data. To a large extent, whether that student listens to me or is even interested in my opinion is based on my relationship with that student. The student will decide based on his or her interactions with me whether or not I’m credible. It won’t matter if the student has read dozens of articles authored by people writing outside of main-stream science who oppose my point of view. It won’t matter if the student has read dozens of articles authored by scientists writing within the bounds of main-stream science that agree with my point of view. Human learning is largely relationship dependent, and respect is something that is earned during the course of interpersonal interaction. If they respect me as a professional, then they will listen to my point of view and take it seriously. It won’t matter if anti-evolution movies are produced, anti-evolution museums are built, and anti-evolution news programs are published. A student will determine in their own mind whether or not I’m elitist and narrow minded and driven by a sheep mentality, or whether I have worked incredibly hard in the lab or in the field for many years and I have a valid point of view based on that work. The education of that student is built on trust, and trust is built on relationships.
I’ve known a number of evolutionary biologists over the years, and if I were to sum up the character of them, I would say that they are very sincere, personable, and friendly people. I think that applies to every one of them I know. The first time that I ever got a glimpse into the heart of an evolutionary biologist in relation to the anti-evolution/evolution debate, it really surprised me. Here is the story as I recall it: A well spoken professor with a grey beard was standing by a very large rock formation, pointing at some layer in the rock that was dark. This man seemed very likeable and friendly, like the other evolutionary biologists I know. He was talking about how this particular dark layer was found all over the world and indicated a large meteor strike or maybe a volcanic eruption or some such cataclysmic event. (The exact details are not important. The point of this is not the science, rather it is the heart of the scientist.) Then, something in this man’s eyes changed. He became defiant...almost angry. He said bluntly that if anybody could ever find such-and-such a fossil (The fossil he was talking about is not important.) below this dark layer, then EVERYTHING (He emphasized the word “everything”, as I recall.) would change in terms of scientific thinking about evolution. I am no expert concerning fossils and layers of dirt or rock. I don’t even know a great deal about the debate surrounding fossils and dirt between some religious people and scientists. However, I could tell that (a) somebody had been picking on this man’s theory, (b) whoever was picking on this man’s theory had not provided him with one shred of evidence he felt was worth anything, and (c) this man perceived that whoever was picking on his theory was not paying attention to anything he was saying. These conclusions were evident to me as a scientist. I recognize the mindset, even though I am not an expert in the subject that this man is considered to be an expert in. This man wasn’t running from anything. He put forth an open challenge regarding something he has spent a lifetime studying. He was confident. That was the man’s heart. He was not acting or hiding behind a facade. Keep in mind that these are genuine people who care about other people, especially including their students. Given the level of commitment by most university professors, the lifetimes of experience many of them have, and the relationship they build with students that I discussed above, it is probably easy to see why most university students immersed in the sciences at a secular university rapidly lose any traces of anti-evolutionary thinking. Such changes in thinking are virtually unavoidable, although there are exceptions, of course. Increased levels of indoctrination will generally not prevent these changes, especially when the student gets to know the heart of the scientist.
Religion conflicts with
science: Tragedy part I.
When a college student (or anybody else) becomes convinced that evolution is a fact or becomes convinced of some other scientific matter that possibly contradicts their religious training, the student’s faith in God is sometimes undermined. In these situations, science and the Kingdom of Heaven have collided in a profoundly sad way. Such tragedies should never occur, although they have been occurring for centuries. Christians of the past got spiritually tripped up when they learned that the Earth was not the center of our solar system, because they thought that finding somehow contradicted the Bible. Christians are still getting tripped up when they learn the main-stream scientific thinking regarding the origins of biological diversity. For the purpose of this letter, it does not matter if you agree with that main-stream scientific thinking or not, it only matters that you recognize the problem that some people are having their faith in God undermined as they learn that thinking.
The basis of a mature faith is not advanced apologetics.
Observations I have made outside the field of science have demonstrated clearly to me the issues that are critical for the development of a strong faith that cannot be shaken by issues involving ideological puzzles. Perhaps not surprisingly, my observations are strongly supported by Scripture. I have served as the chief administrator in church-based programs for boys in North Carolina for more than five years, and have been a children’s church coordinator for more than ten years. I have been a leader in a local church-based scouting program for more than 25 years, with a total of almost 30 years experience in children’s ministry in the church. During those years of ministry, I have observed that we generally give our children a great knowledge of the Bible. We teach them the facts in that Book, and we often do a good job of it. Sadly, in many cases, I have seen these same children fail to draw close to (to recognize, to interact intimately with) the living God and walk daily in His Spirit. My observations are supported by broad based surveys conducted by the Barna Research Group (6). Many children go through our children’s programs, then our youth programs, and then they stumble spiritually when somebody points out some matter which somehow disagrees with the young man or woman’s knowledge they received as a child in church. As an example, I’ve seen whole groups of adult Christians get tripped up when somebody pointed out the undisputed speed of light to them, and then made the observation that it takes much more than 6,000 years for that light to travel from a distant galaxy to reach us on Earth. (The adults were taught in church that the stars are about 6,000 years old.) The point is not to start a debate about cosmology, but rather to take a look at why some of our children have such weak faith and are so easily stumbled. If those people had known God and walked in His Spirit, these things that involve conflict between science and religious teaching would not have bothered them. They would have leaned on God rather than their own understanding, and He would have shown them whatever they needed to know. However, they had a shallow faith that was based on human intellect, not a faith based on the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit. That is why they stumbled. That is why many of our young people are stumbling spiritually when they leave home today. They are extremely susceptible to disillusionment when confronted with issues that contradict their weak, intellect-based faith. They sometimes know the Scriptures, called the “Graphe” (the Greek word for “Scripture”) by the New Testament writers, but they do not know or even recognize God’s Voice, described as the “Theos Rhema” (Greek words meaning “Word, Voice, or Speech of God”) by the New Testament writers. They do not know God’s Love and Power in their life, and they do not have a strong shield of faith that comes from interacting with the living God (Romans 10:17). (7) Despite the fact that Scripture makes the importance of the Theos Rhema in every day life very clear (Matthew 4:4), and despite the fact that many prominent Christian teachers have written excellent books about the importance of knowing the Theos Rhema, and the way in which we can know this Rhema (8), much of the organized church has abandoned The Voice of God in favor of an intellectual study of Christian doctrine and apologetics.
My knowledge of God does not depend on the speed of light, the age of the universe, finding a use for everything in the human body, or any other scientific information. I know by faith that, to the Almighty God who exists outside of time, ten billion years is no more daunting than one fraction of a second. My knowledge of God, my faith, comes from my personal relationship with Him. It comes from being led daily by His Spirit and not by my own intellect, emotions, or desires. Scientific experiments or observations may point toward or away from particular religious beliefs, doctrine or dogma, but they will never show the way to the living God. Spiritual understanding is only obtained through God Himself, not through human endeavor (1 Corinthians 2:14). I do not deny that some number of people have become convinced that Jesus is the Christ because of some sort of scientific evidence. However, based on an intellectual assessment of whether God makes sense from the perspective of modern science, many more people have become convinced the Jesus is not the Christ compared to the number that have become convinced that Jesus is the Christ. After all, even if the men closest to Jesus were so convinced that He had risen from the dead that they gave up their lives for that belief, modern medicine still says that recovery from death after three days is not possible. This thinking is consistent with Scripture that says the things of God are foolishness to the learned and educated of this world (1st Corinthians 1:21, 23; 1st Corinthians 2:14). Scripture never said that the things of God will suddenly start to make sense if the learned and educated of this world analyze the data correctly. More importantly, just believing that Jesus is Christ does not mean that somebody has realized that they must lay down their life and follow Christ (Luke 14:33; James 2:14-26), which is to live a life guided by His Holy Spirit (John 16:5-15; Romans 8:14). Scripture is clear that what we do in obedience to God, not what we believe intellectually, will determine salvation (See for example, Matthew, chapter 25 and Revelation 20:13.), and it is evident from history that the human intellect is not sufficient for determining what to do in terms of religious practice (9). Certainly what we believe intellectually can have a profound effect on what we do, but it is the Holy Spirit, not our own intellects, that will guide us into all Truth (John 16:13). Finally, to show somebody the way to Christ, it makes sense and is consistent with Scripture that the life we lead which bears the supernatural fruits of the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:22-25), including unconditional love (John 13:35), will be much more effective at showing somebody the way to God than any argument we may or may not win regarding some point about the origins of the universe or of life on this planet.
Facilitating the transformation from childhood to men and women of God.
Some would argue that we must do a better job of indoctrinating our children during their formative years, and that will help protect them from falling away from God when they get older. I disagree completely, based on what I’ve observed (10). The most critical issue is not indoctrination, but it is whether or not the child sees the parents living by faith, walking out a life led by the Spirit of God. If the child sees the parents bear the fruits of the Spirit in a supernatural way, loving their enemies, having joy and peace in the face of life’s storms, then the child will be well positioned to survive spiritually. If the child sees the parents live a life driven by anxiety, materialism, anger, or anything else other than the Holy Spirit, then the child will not be prepared well to survive spiritually. The child will pick up whatever form of religion the parents have. For our children’s spiritual survival, they must learn to walk in the power and anointing of God’s Spirit, and children learn the most by watching their parents. It is what the parent does, not what the parent says, that is important for the child’s spiritual growth. Most importantly for this present discussion, if a child’s faith is dependent on intellectual instruction that we give them, many of them will fall to spiritually-dead religious practices or an absence of faith altogether, no matter how good our religious instruction may be. History (9) and current statistics (6) both prove this point that I have seen play out in front of my eyes over and over again during the past 30 years. Any child who does not learn to walk in God’s Spirit will be in great danger when they are exposed to this world. When they are walking in the power and anointing of God’s Spirit, then they are ready. Then they have the Holy Spirit, and do not need anybody else to teach them (1 John 2:27).
What about the Bible: what should we teach our children?
The Bible contains a God-inspired description of the preparation of the Garden of Eden, the section of this planet that mankind was initially given charge of. It describes the first man, who we call Adam and who was made without sin and death and who communed with God, and the Bible describes a bad choice made by that man, bringing sin and death to mankind and separating mankind from God. The Bible also describes another man, Jesus Christ, who made the right choices and paid the price for the sin of mankind, making a way for us to have communion with God by His Holy Spirit if we choose to lay down our life and take up that communion. Yes, I believe that the Bible describes God’s relationship to humankind, and I teach those things to the children entrusted to my care. Those are the vital things our children need to know. More importantly, I point children to the living God, and I tell them that it is not what they know, but Who they know, that is most important (10). None of those vital issues our children need to know, including the role of the Garden of Eden in human history, the death and resurrection of Christ, or the nature of a relationship with God, are the subject of scientific inquiry, and I doubt they ever will be. Anything I know about those things comes from God, and has nothing to do with the intellectual pursuit of science.
Some anti-evolutionists may read the previous paragraph and be disappointed or even angry that I don’t take a stand about exactly how God formed Adam from the dust of the earth or exactly how all life on this planet originated. As a scientist, I have published nothing in this field and therefore it is completely impossible for me to add anything valid to what the scientific experts say. As a Christian, I should be silent except for the message that God gives me to deliver by His Holy Spirit, and the message here has nothing to do with those issues. Rather, the message has to do with why many church-raised children in the next generation are falling away from God, and why many in our generation do not walk in His Spirit, but rather in the flesh. God is not concerned with our science nearly so much as He is concerned with our heart.
The basis of mature faith is a relationship with God
God is calling us to guard against an intellect-based Christianity in our own hearts. If we have intellect-based Christianity, our children will obtain it. This form of Christianity is not really Christianity at all, and, like religious practice based on human emotion, results in a shallow faith that is weak and unstable. Intellect-based Christianity is very, very deeply engrained in our Christian culture, although the Apostle Paul warns us explicitly about this trap in the second chapter of his first letter to the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 2: 1-5), and numerous scriptures indicate that true faith is independent of human understanding. (e.g. Proverbs 3:5, Proverbs 28:26, 2 Corinthians 10:5, Isaiah 55:8, All great Bible heroes are examples of this principle.) There are many forces at work in our culture that effectively destroy and dismantle intellect-based Christianity. The scientific education I have been describing in this letter is one of those forces. These forces, characteristic of the “post-modern” culture, have no effect on true Christianity that is based on a relationship with God through His Holy Spirit and not on human intellect or human emotion. It is only when our faith and our children’s faith is based on the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit, that our intellect and emotions and our children’s intellect and emotions can come into line with God’s Word and Will. It is a matter of having a mature faith that comes from hearing and obeying the “Theos Rhema”. It is this Rhema that is known as the Shepherd’s Voice or the Voice of our Guide in this life, the Holy Spirit. It is this Rhema that is our daily bread for spiritual nourishment. Without an awareness of this Rhema, we are left with a blind faith and can never begin to know our Creator as absolute Ruler and omnipotent King and, at the same time, as intimate friend, whose unconditional love for us is stronger, deeper, and greater than any human mind can comprehend.
Religion conflicts with science: Tragedy part II.
The primary point of this letter so far is that any faith that is not based on a firm relationship with the living God is very weak, and may be undermined if some of the doctrine upon which that faith is founded is undermined. I’ve also tried to explain why many people abandon anti-evolution thinking for the thinking of main-stream science. With these two points in mind, one can see how science education might lead some to lose their faith in God. This is the first tragedy. The second tragedy is no less sad. It is this tragedy that I will consider now, and a return to the function of the human appendix will be helpful for this consideration.
Many Christians might see God’s hand in the “ideal design” of the appendix, and scoff at those which see the hand of evolution as acknowledged by main-stream science. Sadly, such views often leave those who acknowledge main-stream science with the impression that some Christians ignore obvious natural causes in favor of blind faith or even superstition (9). The intellectual credibility of those Christians in the view of the person accepting main-stream science can be severely damaged. St. Augustine of Hippo made this point beautifully 1600 years ago:
“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?” St Augustine, in “The Literal Meaning of Genesis“. The translation is by J. H. Taylor in Ancient Christian Writers, Newman Press, 1982, volume 41.
Notice that this loss of credibility that St. Augustine is talking about does not depend on whether the anti-evolutionist is absolutely correct in his or her thinking or not. It certainly does not depend on if the anti-evolutionist thinks he or she is correct. It only depends on whether the person who needs to hear about the resurrection of Christ thinks that the anti-evolutionist is being ridiculous about matters of the physical universe. Such loss of credibility can greatly diminish or even destroy completely any potential for the Christian to effectively convey matters of spiritual significance to the person who accepts main-stream science. Indeed, the very idea of a relationship with the living God must seem like a grand delusion to skeptics who view Christians as being deceived by their religion regarding matters of obvious scientific truth. Remember that the majority of the American people who do not know God are probably accepting of main-stream science, and this situation certainly applies to many other industrialized countries. This tragedy, I firmly believe, is not the will of the living God. If we walk in the Spirit of the living God and avoid debates and conflicts that He has not ordained, the fruits of the Spirit that are independent of circumstances, including peace, unconditional love, and joy, will surface in our lives, and those fruits will not drive people away from Christ, but will draw people to Him.
I once had a conversation with a minister (professional clergy) who was responsible for the religious messages broadcast by a well-known and widely syndicated Christian music radio program. When I explained to this minister that the brief anti-evolution advertisements he was periodically inserting between Christian songs would offend a huge percentage of the population, and those people who were offended may never hear the important parts of his radio broadcast because of that offense, he seemed rather surprised. He told me that I was the first to ever complain. He said that the anti-evolution advertisements were set to run for a little longer, and that he would re-consider the matter when it came time for new advertisements. It turns out that the new advertisements, which I heard later, not only pushed an anti-evolution viewpoint, but referred to the main-stream scientific community as “elitist”. This minister’s response told me that he was predominantly preaching to his own choir, and he wasn’t paying much attention to the people who really needed to hear the Gospel of Christ. I work with many that would benefit greatly from the Gospel of Christ, and I can tell you that anti-evolution advertisements will alienate many of them in the sense that they will think that whoever is running the programming for the Christian radio station is a superstitious idiot. I am sure that calling them elitists doesn’t help them see the love of Christ either. One other fact is interesting in this particular case: for a radio program that reaches a few million people every day in a country where more than half are converts to Darwinism, I was the first to ever ask this minister why he was potentially offending over half the population if his main objective was to reach the lost for Christ. Nobody else had ever bothered to deliver St. Augustine’s message to him. Is this because we got so focused on particular interpretations of the first two chapters in Genesis that we forgot what the rest of the Book was telling us that we need to be doing? Have we become completely ensnared in the trap of fruitless debate warned of by the Apostle Paul in 1st Timothy 1:3-7? Only Christ can effectively repair any tragedies of faith that have been brought about by fruitless debate. Thus, we must point others to Christ, not to additional debates regarding the origins of species on planet Earth. Christ is more than able to repair the damage, but our eyes must be singularly on Him, and not the stormy debate surrounding us. It is through faith in Him, not faith in any particular doctrine of creation, that we are able to walk in the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit.
Keep in mind the Apostle Paul's approach when he reached out to people who did not know Christ. The Apostle Paul looked for common ground rather than zeroing in on disagreement even in matters of worship of gods other than the God of the Bible (Acts 17:22-23). Further, early Christians under Paul's authority did not even attack the idea that "the city of the Ephesians is temple guardian of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Zeus" (Acts 19:35, NKJV). In addition, they didn't blaspheme the name of the goddess Diana (Acts 19:37). They preached Christ’s love, but they did not attack Diana’s deity. If Paul was so willing to overlook belief in foreign gods in order to reach people for Christ, then it should be no great difficulty for Christians of today to overlook theories of science in order to reach people for Christ.
Paul knew that if you walk into somebody's house and threaten their most prized possession, they aren't going to listen to you concerning matters of eternal importance. They are going to want you out of their house before you cause more trouble. This is the reaction of most intelligent people. On the other hand, if you leave their prized possession alone long enough to help them find Christ, then you can be confident that they will have the ability to correctly decide for themselves the value of that possession you wanted to destroy. If you are not able to show them about Christ, the right thing to do is to leave their prized possession alone so that you don't build a huge barrier that will prevent them from hearing from the next Christian that comes across their path.
Tragedy part I and Tragedy part II come together, making matters worse.
Some anti-evolutionists are very aware of the second tragedy, that some non-believers will be offended by their beliefs, but they are willing to accept the losses because they are “taking a stand for education”. In essence, they are willing to sacrifice the potential good of many for the potential good of their children. This might seem reasonable since children have a lot more potential than adults. Further, it is normal for parents to be willing to sacrifice for their children. However, the problem with this approach in this particular case is that, casualties from part I of the tragedy end up getting swept up in part II of the tragedy. For example, a young lady who begins to question her belief in God as a result of some things she has observed in a science class (Tragedy part I), may quickly fall into a state of complete disdain for all religious teachings in general (Tragedy, part II). Keep in mind that, at the same time the science professor (or friends, or the media) is asking this young lady about some aspect of biological diversity, a philosophy professor (or her friends, or the media) might also be asking her about the rationality of other elements of her theology. Basically, if this young lady knows God personally, she will be more than fine. She will be a light in a dark world. If she only has doctrine and head knowledge, any anti-evolution doctrine she carries with her may potentially feed into a bad situation, making the bad situation even worse.
Science and religion: why the conflict?
Science is a man-made system for evaluating our physical universe. Science can help make our lives more enjoyable and healthy, and it certainly stimulates the human intellect. Although I am passionate about science, science is worthless in terms of providing answers related to the spiritual universe. Our understanding of that spiritual universe depends on our relationship with the living God through the power and anointing of His Holy Spirit. If we depend on science or our own intellect for spiritual answers, we are searching for water in a can of oil, and trying to fly using a bicycle. We and our children will die of thirst unless we search for water in the right place, and we will never get off the ground until we find the right means of transportation. Certainly oil and bicycles can be very useful for many purposes, but oil can’t quench our thirst and bicycles don’t enable us to fly. Neither can science or intellect satisfy our spiritual needs that can only be met by communion with the living God.
The Kingdom of Heaven is not affected by the intellectual battlefields of words over the origins of species any more than it was affected by the military battlefields for the occupation of Jerusalem during the crusades, regardless of how intensely Christians might be engaged in the effort. The Kingdom of Heaven is affected by the hearts of people who decide that they will not live a life after their own desires, but rather that they will follow Christ and live a life directed by the Holy Spirit of the living God. If we really understood the meaning behind Christ’s claim that His Kingdom was not of this world, there would be no need for this letter. Just as Christ assured Pilate that He had no intentions of setting up an Earthly throne that would compete with the Roman’s military rule, so should the church be able to tell the scientific community that they have no intentions of setting up an organization of any type to compete with science’s intellectual quest.
The real spiritual conflict
For some reading this letter, I know it will be refreshing, and I bless our Lord from which all such refreshing comes. For others reading this, the letter will be offensive and it will not help you in your goals to which you are committed. This letter isn’t for you, at least not now. My prayer for us is that we will walk together in the perfect harmony and unity of Christ’s unconditional love, despite disagreement, as Scripture commands. For the final group, the ones who find this letter unsettling or even disturbing, I am most interested in writing to you. Many of you are not particularly concerned with the exact details that we teach our children, as long as we teach them whatever it takes so that they stay with God and don’t get trapped in a lifestyle outside the Body of Christ. The whole business of a post-modern culture is deeply concerning to you, and you don’t care what it takes, you just need to know what to do to give our kids the best chance of staying with God. For you, I am going to say the bottom line plainly: Science education has nothing to do with the spiritual battle you are in. You are not wrestling against scientists in your battle. They are made of flesh and blood. You are wrestling against something else. Forget about science education. The whole business of science education is only a distraction from the real battle. You need to draw close to God so that He can give you guidance (as promised in Scripture; See John 16:13.) and unconditional Peace in the face of life’s storms. This is the same guidance and the same peace that our children will need when they face a post-modern culture. You need it first before you can show a child. With this in mind, I again recommend Joy Dawson’s book (See note # 8 at the bottom of this letter.) and maybe Tim Enloe’s book (The title of that book is “Want More?”) if you don’t know God’s Voice well enough to have a peace that passes understanding in the face of life’s storms. If, on the other hand, you feel like your kids just aren’t acquiring the same relationship with God that you have, and this is driving you up the wall, I helped compile a lot of very good information about helping your child draw close to God (See note # 10 at the bottom of this letter.), and that book is an eye-opener for many people. The take-home lessons from that book are: (A) pure Christianity is MUCH easier to transfer to a child than is a mixed religion such as part Christianity, part materialism, and (B) The process of transformation from parent-led child to Spirit-led adult should be complete by the ripe-old age of 13 years. Waiting longer than that is much harder on everybody concerned, whereas completing the task on schedule makes child-rearing astonishingly easier than one might think possible. Yes, astonishingly. That is a wonderful word that describes the situation perfectly.
I wish you His joy and grace as you consider the contents of this letter, and I pray that God will astonish you in the most wonderful of ways.
God be with you,
William (Bill) Parker, PhD
Acknowledgements: The author thanks Zoie Holzkencht and Susanne Meza-Keuthen for careful and critical proofreading of the manuscript, and thanks Gina Gomperts and George Ayer for their prayers specifically for this project. Many thanks also to Kevin Sluder for his thoughtful insights and for providing the server space to post this letter on the web. Thanks also to Greg Neyman for his kind comments and his willingness to post this letter on the OEM website.
1. R. B. Bollinger, A. S. Barbas, E. L. Bush, S. S. Lin and W. Parker. Biofilms in the large bowel suggest an apparent function of the human vermiform appendix. Journal of Theoretical Biology 249: 826-831 (2007).
2. M. L. Everett, D. Palestrant, S. E. Miller, R. B. Bollinger and W. Parker. Immune exclusion and immune inclusion: a new model of host-bacterial interactions in the gut. Clinical and Applied Immunology Reviews 5: 321-332 (2004); J. L. Sonnenburg, L. T. Angenent and J. I. Gordon. Getting a grip on things: how do communities of bacterial symbionts become established in our intestine? Nature Immunology 5: 569-73 (2004).
3. R. B. Bollinger, A. S. Barbas, E. L. Bush, S. S. Lin and W. Parker. Biofilms in the normal human large bowel: fact rather than fiction. Gut 56: 1481-1482 (2007); D. Palestrant, Z. E. Holzknecht, B. H. Collins, S. E. Miller, W. Parker and R. R. Bollinger. Microbial biofilms in the gut: visualization by electron microscopy and by acridine orange staining. Ultrastructural Pathology 28: 23-27 (2004).
4. Statistics on the cause of death in developed countries collected by the World Health Organization in 2001 show that acute diarrhea is the fourth leading cause of disease-related death in developing countries. (Data summarized by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) Two of the other leading causes of death are expected to have exerted limited or no selection pressure on humans in the past because one (HIV-AIDS) is very recent and another (ischaemic heart disease) primarily affects people in their post-reproductive years. Thus, acute diarrhea may have been one of the primary disease-related selection pressures on the human population in the past.
5. D. J. Barker, J. A. Morris, S. J. Simmonds and R. H. Oliver. Appendicitis epidemic following introduction of piped water to Anglesey. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health 42: 144-8 (1988); D. J. Barker, C. Osmond, J. Golding and M. E. Wadsworth. Acute appendicitis and bathrooms in three samples of British children. British Medical Journal Clinical Research Ed 296: 956-8 (1988); D. J. Barker and J. Morris. Acute appendicitis, bathrooms, and diet in Britain and Ireland. British Medical Journal Clinical Research Ed 296: 953-5 (1988).
6. G. Barna "Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions". Gospel Light, Ventura, CA (1996)
7. Scripture references are provided throughout this article to demonstrate that the author’s experience with God is consistent with Scripture, not as stand-alone evidence for any particular issue with which the author has no experience. Logical exceptions to this rule are the Scriptures pertaining to historical information or to judgment day. It is not that the author ignores Scripture, but rather that the author believes that only the Holy Spirit, not our own intellects, can reveal the meaning of Scripture to us.
8. Several Excellent books dealing with knowing the Theos Rhema, the Voice of the Holy Spirit, are as follows: “Is that really you, God?”, by Loren Cunningham; “Forever Ruined for the Ordinary”, by Joy Dawson; “Developing a Conversational Relationship with God”, by Dallas Willard; “Hearing God’s Voice”, by Henry and Richard Blackaby; “How to Hear from God”, by Joyce Meyer; and “The Normal Christian Life” by Watchman Nee.
9. The currently popular book entitled “god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything”, by Christopher Hitchens. (Hachette Book Group USA, New York 2007) includes an excellent description of a rejection of God based in part on errors that intellectually-driven Christians have made throughout history. Among the author’s many grievances with religion is the typical and rather convincing post-modern viewpoint that intellect-based Christianity has proven not only worthless, but actually harmful. The book is anything but faith-building and is not recommended reading for anybody seeking God, but it does give many insights into how Christians needlessly offend non-Christians. Most telling is the author’s experience at the age of “about 9” that initiated his turn from the intellect-based Christianity that the adults around him practiced: one of his teachers credited God with something in nature (the color of plant leaves, to be specific) that had a perfectly natural explanation.
10. W. Parker and S. Meza-Keuthen "Handbook for parents and church workers: facilitating the transformation from childhood to men and women of God." Authorhouse, Bloomington, IN (2007). Proceeds go to help TrueLife church in Briar Creek, North Carolina. (www.mytruelife.org)