“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” “God…has in these last days spoken…by his son…by whom also He made the worlds.” Genesis 1:1, Hebrews 1:1, 2
Ancient and Medieval Views of Origins
The biblical revelation alone proposes that the infinite-personal Spirit, God the Creator, is the only eternally existent entity. Only the biblical faith holds that everything else, the entire natural order and spiritual order, had a beginning, was created from nothing. All other ancient religions postulate an eternally existent natural order of some kind to which a God or gods may or may not be attached. They also have, in their beginning or somewhere along the way, incorporated, assumed or implied some kind of evolutionary development in the world. Ancient Greek philosophers, including Anaximander (600 B.C.), Empedocles (450 B.C.) and Democritus (400 B.C.) assumed evolutionary processes of one kind or another. The Hebrew Scriptures (1400-400 B.C.) taught special creation, and the New Testament revelation strongly reinforced faith in creation.
During the Medieval Period in Europe the literal biblical picture of creation apparently predominated in religious and philosophical thought, and the last great theologian of that period, Aquinas, espoused a strictly literal understanding of the Mosaic creation account. The Protestant Reformation theologians continued this traditional view, and the early founders of modern science generally believed in creation. Nevertheless, in Catholic circles some evolutionary thinking was being published, and even in the 18th century some philosophers and scientists were playing with theories of evolutionary development.
Evolutionism in Scientific Thought Before Darwin
During the 17th and 18th centuries, as such sciences as astronomy, physics, chemistry, geology and biology began to germinate and develop, although most scientists were Christian believers, some started to espouse a Deistic view of the world. According to Deism, god created the world and then walked away to let it run according to built-in laws. This idea of a self-running, evolving mechanical world gradually took over astronomy and geology. The idea soon appeared in biology. By the mid-19th century some scientists were openly anti-biblical and promoting evolutionary ideas. Erasmus Darwin, the grandfather of Charles, published long before his grandson’s birth several ideas basic to later evolutionary theory. By the early 19th century Jean de Lamarck in France, openly anti-biblical in spirit, had proposed a theory of evolutionary progress by the inheritance of acquired characters. These pressures against the traditional biblical view of special creation led the English Archdeacon and theologian, William Paley, to publish in 1802 his classic book, Natural Theology. In this book he skillfully supported special creation by appeal to a wealth of evidence for intelligent, purposeful design in living things.
The Attack On the Bible In the Churches
In the church world profound changes were also taking place. The great state churches in England and Europe which came out of the Reformation had for the most part declined from their original biblical faith and fervor, becoming approved and tax-supported social institutions. But even more damaging for the future of the Christian churches was the beginning in the early 19th century of a concerted attack upon the Bible. Initiated in the German universities and theological schools by scholars who claimed to be studying the Bible scientifically, this “Higher Criticism” was actually a program for destroying the credibility of the bible. One of its major products, the Documentary Hypothesis of the Books of Moses, made out Moses’ writings to be “pious” forgeries. Supposedly the first five books of the bible were written 500 to 1,000 years after poor old Moses died. The real authors allegedly were assorted persons and groups who had pet religious and political axes to grind. One assumed group of authors used “Jehovah” as the name for God, another group the name, “Elohim,” a third group promoted the law (Deuteronomy means second giving of the law), and a fourth crowd composed of priests promoted their professional interests. So the modern critics cut up Moses’ books into piles of scraps which were called the J (for Jehovah), E (for Elohim), D (for Deuteronomy) and P (for Priestly) “documents,” although no such documents were ever found. The higher critical “scholars” claimed that over a period of centuries these bits and scraps were put together by unknown editors until the present books of Moses resulted.
The higher critical analysis of the “documents” was made under the assumption that the religion of the Hebrews slowly evolved from polytheism to henotheism (one-God-among- many) to monotheism, and that all references to supernatural activity in the Bible are spurious. But the facts of history and archaeology contradict these assumptions. It is obvious that anybody who accepts the assumptions and conclusions of Higher Criticism of the Bible can have no respect for faith in the bible as the authoritative Word of God. This view of the Scriptures spread from Germany to England to America in the mid-19th century. Theologians holding this anti-Christian view became professors in seminaries and Christian and secular universities. Soon hundreds of young ministers tainted with this unbelief were filling pulpits in Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal and Lutheran churches. This “Modernism” began to conquer the old-line denominations in England and America.
The rejection of the historic biblical faith and its replacement by an evolutionary view of the Bible, set the stage for the acceptance of Darwinism by the churches. Other social changes were preparing the way for Darwin. The Industrial Revolution which began in the latter part of the 18th century greatly increased wealth, promoting worldliness and materialism among the general public and the upper classes, engendering resistance to the restraints of biblical morality. Darwinism sold to a Prepared World All of these factors–the materialistic philosophy of scientists, the attack in church circles against the historical and scientific validity of the Bible, and the growth of wealth, worldliness and materialism–these had eaten away the spiritual substance of nominally Christian western culture and society. The Christian character of Victorian society was really a shell, empty and ready to be filled with a new idea or faith which would support and justify the surrender of the former faith. Thus when Charles Darwin, in 1859, finally rushed into print the theory which he had persistently developed and cautiously promoted among his scientific peers for over twenty years, he became the super-salesman of an idea whose time had come. His book sold out over night and had to be reprinted. Its influence was immediate and sweeping, although debated continued for decades. Within a few years the scientific Establishment was largely converted to Darwinism or at least to evolutionism. His book, Origin of Species, became perhaps the most influential of all time, outside of the Bible, and its effects have been distinctly the opposite of those the Bible had in the world.
Now that a world prepared for Darwin had received his work with applause, what were the effects of the conversion of thinking about man nature? One thing that is clear is that Darwinism reinforced and accelerated the very changes that had prepared the way for its reception. Science was rather quickly monopolized for materialistic philosophies. The attack on the Bible inside the religious community was reinforced and advanced by the incorporation of Darwinism into the theology of main-line Protestant denominations as well as into the thinking of many theologians and priests in the Roman Catholic Church.
As a result the divine authority of the Bible was systematically undermined in these churches, unbiblical ideas supplanted the Truth of the Gospel, and spiritual life declined. Finally, the general drift of society into worldliness, materialism, immorality and social-political chaos continued as reasons for faith and concern for the spiritual values of life declined in the minds of the common people. In our century there is no question that Darwinian evolution lies in the foundations of both Nazism-Fascism and Communism (Marxism-Leninism). Hitler’s vision of the superior, conquering super-race and Communism’s vision of materialistic, economically determined man evolving toward perfection in the collectivist environment both either flow from or are reinforced by Darwinism. And what of the Western world’s present march toward an ultimate socialist world government? Darwin’s evolved and evolving man is the subject of all of these schemes for people control and exploitation.
What Is the Remedy?
The remedy for this social-political-religious degeneration is the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ and the Law of God. The doctrine of man created in the image of God must be allowed to compete in the public as well as in the private sector with Darwin’s doctrine of evolved man. The responsibility of sinful man before a Holy God must be preached to a wicked, unbelieving world. And the believing Church must take up its full responsibility to do this evangelism for the glory of the soon-returning King. Is it too late? No, it is never too late to obey God in this world which He created, rules over, and will judge.