Twenty-two years ago, I conducted an interview with Dr. Phillip Johnson, a respected professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He had just written a book titled Darwin On Trial. Dr. Johnson is retired now, but he devoted many years to debunking the theory of evolution on campuses across North America. He debated scientists in the most hostile academic environments. I admire him for having the courage to espouse politically incorrect ideas, especially on secular campuses.
My interview with Dr. Johnson focused on the fundamental errors in Charles Darwin's profoundly influential book, Origin of Species, first published in 1859. Darwin was puzzled by the fact that paleontologists hadn't been able to locate fossil remains of so-called "transitional forms." By that, he referred to those in-between creatures that should have made an appearance if species really evolved—such as half-birds or half-men. He asked rhetorically, "Why...do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms?" This question troubled him for years and led him to conclude, "I can give no satisfactory answer."
Now, after more than 135 years of exhaustive research, the transitional forms still have not turned up. They don't exist in the geological record. This and other convincing criticisms of classical evolution make it difficult to understand why so many intelligent and highly educated men and women still hold a position that is not supported by verifiable scientific data.
But the purpose of this letter is not to argue that point again. Dr. Johnson's book is available on Amazon and elsewhere to those who are interested. I'm writing today to share some thoughts that have been reverberating in my mind since my conversation with Dr. Johnson. Specifically, it occurs to me that there is linkage, of sorts, between the theory of evolution, the Christian worldview, and the welfare of the family. Let me explain.
Darwin tried to tell us that the various life forms evolved on earth from single-celled organisms swimming in a primordial "soup." (The world's most gifted biologists and biochemists, working in the most sophisticated labs, have never been able to concoct a soup that produces life.) Evolutionists insist that from that spontaneous beginning in an African swamp came a dazzling array of ever more complicated species, leading eventually to the arrival of human beings. This movement of life from simplicity to breathtaking complexity occurred, we are asked to believe, without the benefit of a design or a designer. No mastermind or architect was on the scene. Each species spontaneously perfected itself in the absence of any intelligent plan or intervention. Then the organisms spun themselves into balanced ecological systems that a billion computers couldn't duplicate. It would have been quite an achievement, and we reject it.
The assertion that God played no role in creation is highly offensive to many Christians, of course. But there are other reasons to reject the theory that excludes Him. Evolution is the ONLY belief system that presupposes events in the natural world move from disorder to order on their own initiative. In truth, the exact opposite prevails. Everything degenerates from order to disorder unless great energy is invested to prevent it.
Ask an entrepreneur what happens to his business when he gets too distracted to oversee it. Ask a landlord what happens to his apartments when they are not properly maintained. Ask a mother if her children tend to get cleaner or dirtier when left to themselves. Look at the clunky, sputtering automobile that you were so proud to own back in 1961, or 1971, or 1981. Consider the great civilizations of the world—Greek, Roman, Ottoman and Mayan—that flourished brilliantly for centuries and then unraveled and disappeared.
If you place a brick on a vacant lot and leave it long enough, it will turn to dust. It won’t evolve into something grander.
Astronomers tell us that the sun is gradually depleting its fuel and will eventually burn out. They predict that the entire universe will become cold and dark. Of course, they are wrong about that too because Revelation 21:1 tells us there will be “a new heaven and a new earth.” Clearly, God has another plan.
There are millions of examples of this drift toward chaos and death. Why? Because, eventually, everything moves from order to disorder. In physics, it is called The Second Law of Thermodynamics, which says a system will become more disordered as time increases. In human experience, it is called “aging.”
In short, the evolutionary notion that life on earth is spontaneously evolving upward in a never-ending cycle of perfection stands in contradiction to all we can see and observe. "Survival of the fittest" will not explain this anomaly!
The Scriptures describe clearly the downward tug on the universe and its inhabitants. Isaiah wrote these divinely inspired words nearly 2,700 years ago: "Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail" (Isaiah 51:6, NIV). The psalmist explained it this way: "In the beginning, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end" (Psalm 102:25-27, NIV).
These verses and others speak of a curse that is on the earth and its inhabitants. We might call it "the law of disintegration." Theologians refer to the curse as the consequence of sin, and trace its origin to the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God had warned Adam that he would "surely die" if he ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. After Eve had sinned and Adam yielded to temptation, the Creator pronounced this death sentence on him: "...Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow, you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return" (Genesis 3:17-19, NIV).
To some readers, this understanding of a perishing universe and our temporary place in it may be a bit depressing and morbid. Even children are repelled by the idea. When our son, Ryan, was six years old, Shirley and I invited one of his friends to visit on a Sunday afternoon. That evening, as we drove back to church, we passed a very old and wrinkled man walking on the sidewalk. A discussion ensued about how we should care for elderly people because we would all be old someday. That startling idea had never occurred to Ryan's friend, Kevin.
He said, "Well, it's not going to happen to me!"
I said, "Yes, it will, Kevin. Everyone who lives long enough will eventually get old like the man we just saw."
The lad rode along in deep thought for a few seconds, and then blurted out, "But!... But!... But I don't want to get old! I want to stay fresh and good!"
I said, "I know, Kevin! I know!"
The denial of death in our culture does not help us avoid it. Nor do the billions of dollars we spend on skin creams, vitamins, and face-lifts get us off the hook. Moses told us what to expect nearly four millennia ago: "The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength" (Psalm 90:10, NIV). Isn't it interesting that we have not increased that allotment at all, despite our CAT scans, open-heart surgeries, liver transplants, and modern hospitals staffed by sophisticated physicians who've spent half a lifetime studying the body? One gets the feeling that we're not going to be able to beat the system. Indeed, there appears to be a law written in our genes which says, "...it is appointed unto man once to die" (Hebrews 9:27, KJV).
Despite the unpleasantness of that concept, I believe it is based on one of the most important teachings in Scripture. It brings into focus the eternal values on which our faith is based. David wrote: "Show me, O Lord, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life" (Psalm 39:4, NIV). That is a strange request to be making of the Almighty. But Moses submitted the same petition to the Lord. He said: "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12, NIV). At first glance, there appears to be no connection between the two ideas presented in that verse. How does it make us wiser to recognize the brevity of life? Actually, they are forever linked.
If we fully understand the brevity of life, it should influence everything we do and say. Many of the follies of human behavior occur because of the illusion of permanence. If a man really comprehended how quickly he will be standing before his Maker, would he abandon the wife of his youth and chase after another playmate? Would he wound and disillusion the children who call him Daddy? Would a woman scratch and claw to assure her place in society if she knew how soon it would be torn from her grasp? Would you and I spend so much time acquiring things and seeking recognition if we understood how briefly we would live to enjoy them? Only a fool would ignore the Giver of Life if he fully comprehended his date with destiny.
A friend with whom I grew up lived in a family that enjoyed considerable affluence in our small town. I remember being in his house many times and looking admiringly at the furniture, the trinkets, the appliances, and the way the home was appointed. They were wonderful people. While I never envied what they had, I was keenly aware of the difference between my house and theirs. Well, many years have come and gone. The father in that family died a few years ago, and his wife passed away only recently. This woman's sister was my mother's best friend, and she shared with me her difficult assignment of conducting an estate sale and disposing of all those treasures of a lifetime.
The sale was advertised in the community, and bargain-hunters came by the dozens. It was emotionally wrenching to see them carrying the cherished statues, paintings, clocks and silver goblets down the driveway and out to their cars. They reminded her of ants struggling with bits and pieces of leaves on their way back to the anthill. At the end of the day, the house that had stood in pristine condition for decades was stripped to the bare walls. Everything was gone. And with it went a lifetime of "ownership" that disappeared in a few sad hours.
When I heard of that experience, I was reminded of the proverb I learned long ago: "A baby is born with a clenched fist, but an old man dies with an open hand." It is true. We bring nothing with us into the world, and we will take nothing with us when we go. So we are obligated to ask, “Why are we here and what is worth the investment of our lives?” I was dealing with that issue in reference to my own life some years ago when I wrote Straight Talk. This is what I said in the concluding chapter:
One of my colleagues died during my last year at Children's Hospital, having served on our university medical faculty for more than 25 years. During his tenure as a professor, he had earned the respect and admiration of both professionals and patients, especially for his research findings and contribution to medical knowledge. This doctor had reached the pinnacle of success in his chosen field, and enjoyed the status and financial rewards that accompany such accomplishment. He had tasted every good thing by the standards of the world.
At the next staff meeting following his death, a five-minute eulogy was read by a member of his department. Then the chairman invited the entire staff to stand, as is our custom in situations of this nature, for one minute of silence in memory of the fallen colleague. I have no idea what the other members of the staff contemplated during that 60-second pause, but I can tell you what was going through my mind.
I was thinking, "Lord, is this what it all comes down to? We sweat and worry and labor to achieve a place in life, to impress our fellow men with our competence. We take ourselves so seriously, overreacting to the insignificant events of each passing day. Then finally, even for the brightest among us, all these experiences fade into history, and our lives are summarized with a five-minute eulogy and 60 seconds of silence. It hardly seems worth the effort, Lord."
But I was also struck by the collective inadequacy of that faculty to deal with the questions raised by our friend's death. Where had he gone? Would he live again? Will we see him on the other side? Why was he born? Were his deeds observed and recorded by a loving God? Is that God interested in me? Is there meaning to life beyond investigative research and professorships and expensive automobiles? The silent response by 250 learned men and women seemed to symbolize our inability to cope with those issues.
Then a wave of relief spread over me as I thought about the message of Christianity and the meaning of the cross. This Good News provides the only satisfactory explanation for why we're here and where we're going. The final heartbeat for the Christian is not the mysterious conclusion to a meaningless existence. It is, rather, the grand beginning to a life that will never end. That's why we can proclaim, even at the grave side of a loved one, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" (1 Corinthians 15:55, KJV).
So what does all this introspection have to do with the theory of evolution and the thoughts I have presented? I hope the connection has been made. Despite Darwin's earthbound view of reality, this world is not moving toward perfection of the species. As the universe flows naturally from order to disorder, so do the circumstances in our lives. Pain and sorrow come to us all sooner or later. But beyond life's trials lie unspeakable joy and bliss for those who know our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. That was the assurance He gave to His disciples, and to us, when He said: "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, NIV). His triumph over the curse of sin granted us the promise of eternal life in a perfect world which will never undergo decay.
There is one last point to be drawn from "the law of disintegration." Human relationships also tend to deteriorate if they are not well maintained. That's why an unmarried young man and woman rarely remain committed to each other through a prolonged period of separation. Absence makes the heart grow fonder—for someone else. It's true of marriages, too—even those that are rooted in Christian love. Very few couples are so compatible that they can ride for decades on the momentum of an early emotional high. Only if energy is invested in a relationship will it resist the great embezzler, time, which juggles the books at night when nobody is looking.
But how can that energy be infused into an established and busy family? It's done by taking time for romantic activities despite pressing obligations and overcommitted schedules. It's done by seeking to build the confidence of your mate. It's done by grabbing those fleeting opportunities to get away together, far from the telephone and the office and the mother-in-law and, yes, the kids. It's done by thinking of special ways to please and honor one another. It's done by listening carefully to the subtle feelings being expressed beneath the chatter of everyday conversation. These are the ingredients of renewal. Adding them to a relationship is like pumping up a tire that has started to go flat. In short, we must work to protect "what God has joined together" with all the creativity and compassion we can pour into it. Only in this way are we likely to beat the odds stacked against a lifelong marriage.
I guess that about summarizes the thoughts that have bounced around in my brain since the visit of Dr. Phillip Johnson. Whether or not you were stimulated by his comments, it should be clear by now that I was. I sure wish you would write and tell me what you think about the issues I've raised. I haven't heard from some of you in months. (We keep track of things like that—honest!)
When you write, I would appreciate your tucking in a small gift to Family Talk.We could certainly use it. I could say it better—but I won't.
God's blessings to the many friends of this ministry.
Sincerely in Christ,
1. Darwin on Trial, Dr. Philip Johnson, Washington, D.C.: Regency Gateway Inc., 1991, p. 46.
2. Ibid., p. 47.
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