Why evolution hurts the church
The renowned ‘Great Agnostic’ Robert G Ingersoll—along with many others—vividly enunciated the damage that Darwinism inflicts upon Christianity
Published: 26 October 2014 (GMT+10)
When Charles Darwin died in 1882, he was honoured with a funeral at Westminster Abbey, and buried there. For the church to bestow such a rare tribute was at the very least ironic, given the enormous damage that his ideas (e.g. as espoused in his 1859 Origin of Species, and 1871 The Descent of Man) had inflicted upon Christianity—and continue to do today.
What sort of ‘damage’? It was certainly obvious to Robert G. Ingersoll, who has been described as “perhaps the best-known American of the post-Civil War era”.1 Ingersoll, the son of a liberal Congregational minister, was also nicknamed the ‘Great Agnostic’, and was fulsome in his praise for fellow agnostic,2 the late Charles Darwin:
This century will be called Darwin’s century. He was one of the greatest men who ever touched this globe. He has explained more of the phenomena of life than all of the religious teachers. Write the name of Charles Darwin on the one hand and the name of every theologian who ever lived on the other, and from that name has come more light to the world than from all of those. His doctrine of evolution, his doctrine of the survival of the fittest, his doctrine of the origin of species, has removed in every thinking mind the last vestige of orthodox Christianity. He has not only stated, but he has demonstrated, that the inspired writer knew nothing of this world, nothing of the origin of man, nothing of geology, nothing of astronomy, nothing of nature; that the Bible is a book written by ignorance—at the instigation of fear. Think of the men who replied to him. Only a few years ago there was no person too ignorant to successfully answer Charles Darwin; and the more ignorant he was the more cheerfully he undertook the task. He was held up to the ridicule, the scorn and contempt of the Christian world, and yet when he died, England was proud to put his dust with that of her noblest and her grandest. Charles Darwin conquered the intellectual world, and his doctrines are now accepted facts. His light has broken in on some of the clergy, and the greatest man who today occupies the pulpit of one of the orthodox churches, Henry Ward Beecher, is a believer in the theories of Charles Darwin—a man of more genius than all the clergy of that entire church put together.
And yet we are told in this little creed that orthodox religion is about to conquer the world! It will be driven to the wilds of Africa. It must go to some savage country; it has lost its hold upon civilization. It is unfortunate to have a religion that cannot be accepted by the intellect of a nation. It is unfortunate to have a religion against which every good and noble heart protests. Let us have a good religion or none. My pity has been excited by seeing these ministers endeavor to warp and twist the passages of Scripture to fit the demonstrations of science. Of course, I have not time to recount all the discoveries and events that have assisted in the destruction of superstition. Every fact is an enemy of the church. Every fact is a heretic. Every demonstration is an infidel. Everything that ever really happened testifies against the supernatural.
The church teaches that man was created perfect, and that for six thousand years he has degenerated. Darwin demonstrated the falsity of this dogma. He shows that man has for thousands of ages steadily advanced; that the Garden of Eden is an ignorant myth; that the doctrine of original sin has no foundation in fact; that the atonement is an absurdity; that the serpent did not tempt, and that man did not ‘fall’.
Charles Darwin destroyed the foundation of orthodox Christianity. There is nothing left but faith in what we know could not and did not happen. Religion and science are enemies. One is a superstition; the other is a fact. One rests upon the false, the other upon the true. One is the result of fear and faith, the other of investigation and reason.3
Now, there is much that we could say about Ingersoll’s words above—particularly where some of his statements are just plain wrong, e.g. because he erroneously presumes that evolution is true. However, we’ll only briefly mention those here, as such skeptic ‘arguments’ are comprehensively dealt with in the more than 8,000 articles on this (creation.com) website.4
Primarily though, given the title of our article here is “Why evolution hurts the church”, the relevant take-home message here from Ingersoll’s delighted revelling in Darwinism is that evolution and the Gospel of Christ are irreconcilable. As Ingersoll correctly put it, all the way back in 1884, “Charles Darwin destroyed the foundation of orthodox Christianity”. No wonder Ingersoll had such disdain (‘pity’ he called it) for clerics who tried to “warp and twist” Scripture to fit evolution (‘science’ he called it, but see Is evolution ‘scientific’?). But note also that didn’t stop Ingersoll from gloatingly lauding the evolution-compromising preacher Henry Ward Beecher (1813–1887) as “the greatest” to occupy orthodox pulpits at the time. It’s a blatantly hypocritical but strategic tactic that skeptics continue to employ today—see Clergy letter project a circus and How religiously neutral are the anti-creationist organisations?
Scoffers are still singing Darwin’s praises
For the benefit of any readers who, even after Ingersoll’s rant above, still might be contemplating that Charles Darwin’s evolutionary ideas do not challenge Christianity, consider that the same glee with which Ingersoll used Darwinism as a tool against the church is still very much practised today. Hiring billboards isn’t cheap, yet ‘freethinkers’ happily “Praise Darwin” (see photo, left), as agnostic Ingersoll did. What better way to discredit Christ as Creator5 (and therefore Lord, and Saviour) than by replacing the Bible’s history with an evolutionary story of origins that denies supernatural creation. Indeed, discrediting the supernatural by means of Darwin’s Origin is openly touted by today’s anti-God brigade with a fervour bordering on missionary zeal! Here’s Cambridge University’s Peter Lawrence:
In this vital mission to discredit the supernatural, nothing has proved more important than The Origin of Species.6
A ‘vital mission’(!) for which Darwin’s Origin is the linchpin. Consequently, one wonders if Darwinist-compromising pastors realize that by blithely accepting evolution they might actually be on a road to cutting themselves and their flocks adrift from Jesus? Pastors, don’t cut the anchor line!
There’s really no excuse for anyone with internet access being unaware of how evolution hurts the church, given the numbers of increasingly famous quotes dotting the world-wide-web. Ingersoll and Lawrence are just the tip of the iceberg.
A pack of evolutionary ‘bulldogs’
Evolutionary biologist Sir Julian Huxley (grandson of Thomas H. Huxley—Darwin’s bulldog) eagerly proclaimed:
In the evolutionary pattern of thought there is no longer either need or room for the supernatural. The earth was not created: it evolved. So did all the animals and plants that inhabit it, including our human selves, mind and soul as well as brain and body. So did religion.7
And here’s American atheist Frank Zindler in 1996:
The most devastating thing though that biology did to Christianity was the discovery of biological evolution. Now that we know that Adam and Eve never were real people the central myth of Christianity is destroyed. If there never was an Adam and Eve there never was an original sin. If there never was an original sin there is no need of salvation. If there is no need of salvation there is no need of a saviour. And I submit that puts Jesus, historical or otherwise, into the ranks of the unemployed. I think that evolution is absolutely the death knell of Christianity.8
One has to wonder if church leaders who don’t oppose evolution realize that they are compromising with a ‘death knell’! Isn’t it far better to join the growing throng of the faithful soldiers for Christ in the fight against evolutionary ideas (as per the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 10:5)? And it is a fight, as another American atheist, Richard Bozarth, made clear:
Christianity has fought, still fights, and will continue to fight science to the desperate end over evolution, because evolution destroys utterly and finally the very reason Jesus’ earthly life was supposedly made necessary. Destroy Adam and Eve and the original sin, and in the rubble you will find the sorry remains of the Son of God. If Jesus was not the redeemer who died for our sins, and this is what evolution means, then Christianity is nothing.9
But wait, there’s (even) more.
William Provine, the son of a liberal minister (something he had in common with Robert Ingersoll, and quite a number of other prominent post-Darwin atheists, we notice), lost his professed faith in Christ to Darwin under the teaching of his evolutionary professor at university. He went on to become Professor of Biological Sciences at Cornell University. In a 1998 speech honouring Darwin, Provine challenged:
How can we have meaning in life? When we die we are really dead; nothing of us survives. Natural selection is a process leading every species almost certainly to extinction and ‘cares’ as much for the HIV virus as for humans. Nothing could be more uncaring than the entire process of organic evolution.10
In that same speech, Provine really ‘laid it on the line’:
Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly.
- No gods worth having exist;
- no life after death exists;
- no ultimate foundation for ethics exists;
- no ultimate meaning in life exists; and
- human free will is nonexistent.10
Provine had earlier said:
Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear … There are no gods, no purposeful forces of any kind, no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be completely dead. That’s just all—that’s gonna be the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.11
And just to make sure the point is not missed, in 1999 Provine wrote:
Belief in modern evolution makes atheists of people. One can have a religious view that is compatible with evolution only if the religious view is indistinguishable from atheism.12
Watchmen sounding the alarm
Readers might have noticed that all the spokespeople quoted so far as to why evolution hurts the church have all done so as non-Christians (whose words we’ve presented in brown font). What about Christian voices warning their brethren against the dangers of accepting evolution? There are many! (They are quoted here in green font).
Josef Ton, a Romanian Baptist pastor imprisoned for his faith under the communist regime,13 testified from his own experience:
I came to the conclusion that there are two factors which destroyed Christianity in Western Europe. One was the theory of evolution, the other, liberal theology … . Liberal theology is just evolution applied to the Bible and our faith.14
Prominent theologian Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world, warned:
The theory of evolution is no mere nuisance—it represents one of the greatest challenges to Christian faith and faithfulness in our times.15
He certainly doesn’t mince words, pointing out insightfully that intellectuals are using a myth in the public debate against God:
The debate over Darwinism rages on, with almost every week bringing a new salvo in the Great Controversy. The reason for this is simple and straightforward— naturalistic evolution is the great intellectual rival to Christianity in the Western world. It is the creation myth of the secular elites and their intellectual weapon of choice in public debate.16
And lest anyone think that Mohler’s use of the term ‘naturalistic’ in the quote above means that he leaves room for theistic evolution, think again:
Given the stakes in this public controversy, the attractiveness of theistic evolution becomes clear. The creation of a middle ground between Christianity and evolution would resolve a great cultural and intellectual conflict. Yet, in the process of attempting to negotiate this new middle ground, it is the Bible and the entirety of Christian theology that gives way, not evolutionary theory. Theistic evolution is a biblical and theological disaster.9
The stakes are indeed high, as Dr Mohler emphasizes:
We now face the undeniable truth that the most basic and fundamental questions of biblical authority and gospel integrity are at stake.9
And there are plenty of other leading pastors and theologians too, who’ve been willing to speak out publicly of the harm that evolutionary thinking does to the church, e.g.:
Dr John MacArthur, Randy Alcorn, Doug Wilson, Dr Wally Tow, Esa Hukkinen, Dr Benno Zuiddam, Dr Robert McCabe, Joe Boot, Dr Brad Tuttle, Steve Cioccolanti, Dr Ting Wang, and many more too numerous to list. (These names were chosen because they have been interviewed in Creation magazine, so anyone wanting to know more can click on each name to read our online archive interview with them.)
Evolution’s war against souls
Probe young people today as to their reasons for abandoning the church, and don’t be surprised to find that evolution is very often given as the justification. A Christian youth leader wrote to us detailing exactly what is happening:
As the Youth Minister I used to beat my head against a wall wondering why we lost all our young people at about age 15-16. In the last few years I’ve realized that this is when they teach evolution in depth in science. Chatting with some of the students I have also discovered that some of the teachers actually identify the Christian students and make a special point of explaining the differences and difficulties in reconciling Genesis and the ‘facts’ of evolution. It’s no wonder we lost them. I come near tears just thinking about it.
The gist of how evolution hurts the church
Evolution hurts the church—big time. It is the greatest excuse for unbelief in our day. Cosmic evolution (the universe made itself and we are the fluke product of stardust) gives people a rationale for unbelief. Liberal ministers who allegorize the Bible to try to accommodate evolution in hopes that it will remove the western non-Christian’s indifference to Christ are misguided. Allegorizing the Bible simply just confirms the non-Christian’s unbelief. And where is the ‘fruit’ of that ‘strategy’? Large numbers of liberal churches are emptying! In contrast, proclaiming the straightforward truth of God’s Word from the very first verse has a proven ‘track record’. E.g. see the six conversion accounts in Setting the captives free.
At a fundamental level, as any high school or university student of evolution knows, evolution as formally taught equals ‘No Creator’. And if there’s no Creator, then Jesus was not Creator and therefore could not have died in our place, as only the sinless Creator had the right to be our Redeemer (cf. Psalm 49:7–9). Thus stripped of His status as Creator and Redeemer by textbook evolution, Jesus’ death on the Cross is of no more eternal significance than the deaths of any of the many other people so horribly crucified by the Roman authorities.
Evolution also entails death and struggle for survival for eons before man appeared. This is inconsistent with the goodness of God. After He finished creating, God pronounced everything “very good” (Genesis 1:31). He did not create an evolutionary world.
Theological compromise with evolution results in the Fall (Genesis 3) being mythologized, and that destroys the Bible’s teaching about mankind’s rebellion and salvation. If “God used evolution”, then the creation did not become corrupted when Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3:14–20, Romans 8:19–23); it was corrupt from the beginning. And if Adam was not a real person, or Adam’s death was only ‘spiritual’, what of the death of the Last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45)? How could His physical death on the Cross remove the curse of death from us, as we look forward to our resurrection bodies (Hebrews 2:9, Romans 5:9–19, 1 Corinthians 15, Galatians 3:13)?
If God ‘created’ over billions of years He seriously misled us in inspiring “six days”, with evenings and mornings! Exodus 20:8–11 defines the days; the basis of our 7-day week.
Evolution is inconsistent with the nature of God and the original very good creation, the nature and gravity of the Fall, the death of Jesus and the promise of resurrection, the gravity of sin and the justice of God’s judgment, and the necessity for a new heavens and the new earth (Revelation 22).
Evolution not only hurts the church; it also hurts science
Experimental science, which investigates how today’s world operates, has greatly benefitted mankind. It uses experiment and observation in the present. Evolution is a hypothesis about history, on which you can’t do experiments (time machine, anyone?). It is story-telling driven by the prevailing worldview, which is naturalism (nature is all there is; God does not exist). Acceptable stories have to fit this prevailing worldview.
Christianity birthed science, as historians of science recognize. The founders were devout Christians. Real science and the Bible are compatible. Many are the PhD scientists interviewed in Creation magazine over the years who have attested to that, e.g.:
Drs James Allan, Raymond Damadian, William Ho, Esther Su, Raymond Jones, Atomic Chuan Tse Leow, Ian Macreadie, George Marshall, David Pennington, the late Richard Porter, Walter Veith, John Baumgardner, Danny Faulkner, Stephen Grocott, Dianne Grocott, Andy McIntosh, John Hartnett, Emil Silvestru, Jonathan Sarfati, Don Batten, Patrick Young, Gary Baxter, Douglas Oliver, Brandon van der Ventel, Dewey Hodges, David Stone, Horace Skipper, Jim Mason, Robert Carter, Matti Leisola, Steve Austin, Stuart Burgess, Larry Thaete, Yves Bergeron, David DeWitt, Ariel Roth, Gina Mohammed, John Sanford, Gordon Wilson, Tas Walker, Marcus Ross, David King, Geoff Downes, David Kaufmann, Don Johnson, Felix Konotey-Ahulu, Peter Line, Craig Russell, Joseph Havel, Albert Mills, Mark Armitage, Mark Harwood, Ainsley Chalmers, Markus Blietz, Ken Funk, Bernard Brandstater, among many others. (Clicking on each link takes readers to our online archive interview for each scientist.)
In contrast, evolution is a blinkered view that impedes science. The assertion that living things came purely from natural processes—no intelligence allowed!—is philosophical dogma that science cannot prove. And almost every discovery of modern molecular biology contradicts it. As Professor Paul Davies said, “Most of the workings of the cell are best described, not in terms of material stuff—hardware—but as information, or software” and that, “there is no known law of physics able to create information from nothing”. The insistence that no intelligence was involved in inventing the encyclopaedic quantities of information in organisms blinds scientists to not expect sophistication in living things. “Junk DNA” illustrates the point; evolutionary notions created the idea. The ‘junk’ DNA turns out to be functional. The evolutionary ‘junk’ science impeded that discovery.
Living things are full of sophisticated nano-machines; rotary and linear motors, upon which life depends. Not even one of the many protein components needed to make one of those motors could ever come into existence by pure chemistry, even if every atom in the universe were an experiment with all the correct amino acids present for every microsecond of its supposed age.
Mutations and natural selection operate in today’s fallen world, but they will not create the billions of ‘letters’ of information needed to change a microbe into Mozart. That’s one reason why Robert Ingersoll was incorrect to claim that “Darwin demonstrated the falsity” of the church’s teaching that “man was created perfect, and that for six thousand years he has degenerated.” Darwin demonstrated no such thing. Meanwhile, modern genetics has proven catastrophic to ‘onward-and-upward’ biological evolutionary ideas, instead highlighting mutational degradation at rates that make nonsense of the evolutionary timeline—see Time—no friend of evolution: Our downhill genetic slide fits the biblical creation timeline.
In short, evolution is materialistic dogma masquerading as science.
Hence we would recommend that Ingersoll’s nebulous and misleading words, “Religion and science are enemies” be consigned to the dustbin of hackneyed falsehoods. Instead, a correct statement would be: “The Bible and evolution are enemies.” We would then go on to say indeed that “One is a fact, the other a superstition. One rests upon the true, the other upon the false.”
Where to from here?
This article is specifically meant for Christians who might have been ambivalent about whether to take a stance against evolution or not. If you’re among the readers of this article who have reached this point and, for the first time, ‘gotten the point’, so to speak, we praise God for that! But perhaps you’re thinking, “Well, I can now see the dangers of evolution to the church, but I’ve no problems with millions of years.”
We would encourage you to ‘dig deeper’, e.g. by reading this short article: Drawing power: People get the point when they see these two pictures. Those two simple drawings help open the way for Christians to realize that the Bible’s teaching about geology, and the world’s current teaching about geology, are utterly irreconcilable. Current geology’s millions-of-years timeline contradicts our Lord and Saviour’s statements relating to marriage, and renders vapid His death on the Cross. Little wonder then that geology’s supposed millions and billions of years have been a key tool of choice for those seeking to oppose Christ.
Note for example Robert Ingersoll’s fury against biblical geology still being taught in some orthodox quarters in the 1880s, i.e. in pockets of faithful resistance to the time-stretching Flood-denying (2 Peter 3:3–6) efforts of Charles Lyell and James Hutton, among others:
[Orthodox Christian ministers] are, for the most part, engaged in poisoning the minds of the young, prejudicing children against science, teaching the astronomy and geology of the Bible …3
Note also this 1949 accrediting of geology as being a key factor in the decline of the church in England. Sherwood Taylor, then Curator of the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, very bluntly observed:
In England it was geology and the theory of evolution that changed us from a Christian to a pagan nation.17
This all shows there’s an urgent need for more voices to be heard on this important issue—voices that aren’t muted by just-so stories of billions of years, as sadly many have: ‘Billions of years’ makes Christians dumb (and atheists loud).
References and notes
- Robert Green Ingersoll | The Great Agnostic (August 11, 1833 – July 21, 1899), robertgreeningersoll.org/. Return to text.
- Darwin never recanted from his unbelief. (See Did Darwin recant?) But some might ask, “If Darwin did not recant, then why is he buried at Westminster Abbey?” It was a strategic move on the part of his atheistic/agnostic supporters to advance the public acceptance of evolution—see “Darwin’s death and the Abbey” in Darwin’s bulldog Thomas H. Huxley. Return to text.
- The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, Vol. 2 (of 12) by Robert Green Ingersoll, http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/38802. Free html version: gutenberg.org/files/38802/38802-h/38802-h.htm, accessed 5 August 2014. Return to text.
- In fact, this article is very much simply a coalescence of existing information on our website (with the exception of the Ingersoll quote). Therefore I am very grateful to the authors of the original source articles—the likes of Russell Grigg, Jonathan Sarfati, Carl Wieland, Tas Walker, and particularly Don Batten, who has graciously permitted me to reproduce here slabs from his beautifully succinct 2009 article Church censors biblical creation: The Melbourne Anglican requests an article from CMI and then refuses to publish it. Return to text.
- John 1:3, Colossians 1:16; see also Jesus Christ our Creator, The Incarnation: Why did God become man? Return to text.
- (Re)Reading The Origin, Current Biology 19(3):R96–R104, 2009. Return to text.
- Essays of a Humanist, pp. 82–83, Penguin Books, UK, 1964 (1969 reprint)). Return to text.
- Frank Zindler, American atheist, in a debate with well known Christian apologist William Lane Craig, Atheism vs Christianity video, Zondervan, 1996. Return to text.
- Bozarth, G.R., ‘The Meaning of Evolution’, American Atheist, February 1978, p. 30. Return to text.
- Provine, W.B., Evolution: free will and punishment and meaning in life, Darwin Day address, 12 February 1998, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, eeb.bio.utk.edu/darwin/DarwinDayProvineAddress.htm. Return to text.
- Provine, W.B., Darwinism: Science or Naturalistic Philosophy? The Debate at Stanford University, William B. Provine (Cornell University) and Phillip E. Johnson (University of California, Berkeley), videorecording © 1994 Regents of the University of California. (See also: Origins Research 16(1):9, 1994; arn.org/docs/orpages/or161/161main.htm.) Return to text.
- Provine, W.B., ‘No free will’ in Catching up with the Vision, Margaret W. Rossiter (Ed.), Chicago University Press, p. S123, 1999. Return to text.
- Josef’s bio at romaf.org/JT.html makes for gripping reading. Return to text.
- New Life, April 15, 1982. Return to text.
- Mohler, A., No buzzing little fly—Why the creation-evolution debate is so important, albertmohler.com, 5 January 2011. Return to text.
- Walker, T., Theological college president attacks evolution, biblicalgeology.net/blog/president-attacks-evolution/, 2 February 2011. Return to text.
- Taylor, F.S., Geology changes the outlook; in: Ideas and Beliefs of the Victorians, Sylvan Press Ltd, London, p. 195, (one of a series of talks broadcast on BBC radio), 1949. Return to text.