The Creator you know – what is He like? - Part 4
A God of disease and death?

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In these articles I am considering what The LORD’s work as Creator tells us about the God we have come to know. This is based on the insight revealed in Rom. 1:20 which states “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead.” In the previous article I illustrated through what one person had ended up teaching after arguing that The LORD had no choice but to use evolution, how one’s beliefs about The LORD as Creator reveal the nature of our relationship with Him. In this article I consider the implications on the character of our Creator if one says He chose to make mankind through millions of years of evolution.

Selection – the missing link

Many people wrongly assume that Charles Darwin pioneered the theory of evolution, but this is not so. The roots of his theory stretch back to the days of Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus (c624 - c546 BC), who was among the first to propose that life arose from a single source without the aid of any deity. Interest in evolution began to re-emerge with the European Renaissance (14th to the 17th century) through its interest in classical Greek philosophy based on a humanist world-view. The Enlightenment fuelled further intellectual efforts to find a satisfactory theory of origins which did not require a creator.

Darwin’s grandfather Erasmus (1731-1802) designed himself a book-plate which declared “Everything from shells”. He is better known for a pair of poems published in 1791 under the title ‘The Botanic Garden’, a book ‘Zoonomia’ (1794) and another poem ‘The Temple of Nature’ (published posthumously 1803), all of which foreshadowed the theory for which Charles would become famous. In his autobiography Charles said it was probable that hearing rather early in life such views maintained and praised may have favoured my upholding them under a different form in my Origin of Species.” However having read Zoonomia for a second time Charles noted,I was much disappointed, the proportion of speculation being so large to the facts given.” (Autobiography, Nora Barlow edition p.49)

Erasmus was not the only writer to pave the way for the wide acceptance of Darwinian evolution. In 1844 ‘Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation’ was published anonymously and its popularity spread through British upper classes to such an extent that Prince Albert read it aloud to Victoria the following year, whilst Lord Tennyson incorporated its themes into some of his better known poems. Charles Darwin, though initially critical of ‘Vestiges’, in a later edition of ‘Origin of Species’ said of it, “In my opinion it has done excellent service in this country in calling attention to the subject, in removing prejudice, and in thus preparing the ground for the reception of analogous views.” (6th edition, p14)

These pioneers of evolution prepared the way intellectually for Darwin’s theory, but none had been able to provide a rationale through which complex organisms might have developed from simple ones. Darwin later wrote that he felt that all these earlier writers, including as we have seen his own grandfather, relied too much on speculation rather than on observation. It was his own commitment to observation which he believed enabled him to propose ‘natural selection’ as the missing link in the evolutionary theory. Darwin described natural selection as the elimination of weaker plants and animals through competition with stronger examples of the same and other species. This process, which relies on frailty, sickness, violence and death, was for Darwin the engine which drives one species to change into another, hence the title of his book. My intention here has not been to discuss the weaknesses of his arguments – there are several – but to highlight the way that the theory of evolution depends completely on the deadly processes of natural selection which, it is claimed, eliminates the weakest at every level of organic life.

Evidence for a most maligned God?

I have taken time to emphasise the importance of natural selection to evolution because it is a terrible process which, according to those who believe in Darwin’s doctrine, has slaughtered innumerable flora and fauna over millions of years. It seems to me that those Christians who claim that The LORD used evolution to create Man fail to consider the import of what they are saying. These implications are often more obvious to atheists than to those who claim to speak for Christ.

2009 was Darwin’s year as far as the media was concerned, with the 200th anniversary of his birth in February and the 150th commemoration of the publication of ‘On the Origin of Species” in November. As part of the celebrations BBC1’s ‘The Big Questions’ studio discussion on Sunday 8th February focussed on the creation/evolution debate.

Among the platform guests was Lord Carey of Clifton, a previous Archbishop of Canterbury. Lord Carey was quick to argue that God used evolution and that Genesis and modern science can be easily reconciled. In response to this the presenter asked Peter Atkins, Professor of Chemistry at Lincoln College, Oxford and a well-known atheist, “Is it not possible to step back and admire the majesty of the processes of evolution and to ascribe it to God’s work?” Atkins replied:

Well, if it were God’s work, He chose a particularly nasty way of going about it. For in order for species to evolve you need death, you need conflict, you need one animal to drag another animal apart and I think it is evidence for a most maligned God, if there is a God.”

On the show Lord Carey avoided a direct response to Atkins’ argument, but it is an important point which needs to be addressed by Christians who teach that Genesis is not true history, that Charles Darwin was right and that today the Bible should be understood through science.

In my previous article we saw how the belief that God had no option but to create through evolution had led one vicar to conclude that the life and death of Jesus were an apology for the mess His Father had made. The only alternative argument to a God whose creative hands were tied is One who chose to use evolution. How could such a God go on to declare the outcome of His creative work very good (Gen. 1:31) if by then there had been innumerable deaths, multiple diseases, and endless violence? What is the character of this Creator like if, in order to create mankind, He chose to employ an indeterminable amount of relentless suffering over an unimaginable length of time?

By the mouth of two witnesses

In the Law we read, One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.” (Deut. 19:15) This passage has a wider application than just the matter of disputes amongst brethren (Matt. 18). As we observed previously, atheists often seem to understand the implications of believing in evolution more clearly than Christians. Jacques Monod was a French biologist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology of Medicine in 1965. He died in 1976 and when ABC (Australia) broadcast a tribute to him they included an interview where it was put to him that it was possible to imagine that God could have used evolution. He responded:

If you want to assume that, then I have no dispute with it, except one, which is not a scientific dispute, but a moral one: namely, selection is the blindest, and most cruel way of evolving new species, and more and more complex and refined organisms. I am surprised that a Christian would defend the idea that this is the process which God more or less set up in order to have evolution.”

It seems to me that the insights of these two atheists, and they are not alone, are a serious challenge to any Christian who believes that The LORD chose to create through evolution. Darwin’s key argument, natural selection, is both blind and cruel and if our Creator decided this was the best way of placing mankind on the earth, that means that He must possess a savage and sadistic nature. Later His testimony concerning this process of struggle and death was to assert that it was very good, then of what value are His promises of a very good eternity? Conversely, if He did not really consider millions of years of enforced struggle to survive to be very good, He must be a liar and nothing He promises us can be trusted.

Is God Good?

I recognise that in these articles I have not considered the ‘scientific’ evidence for or against evolution. That has not been my objective, for there are plenty of materials available addressing the flaws of evolution. My concern has been to explore the character of The LORD revealed through His work. It has therefore been necessary to also consider what those who claim that their God used evolution are saying about the nature of the God they believe in and what it reveals about their own relationship with Him. If I believed that over millions of years God looked on as endless generations of His creatures struggled against one another and against death in order to survive, I could not worship Him as a good God. Nor could I declare with any sense of honest conviction that God is Love. Thankfully I am not in that position, for I am fully convinced that His invisible attributes such as love and mercy are clearly seen in His creation.

Randall Hardy – March 2016

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