MAN’S ANIMAL ANCESTRY
An alarming article appeared some time ago inChristianity Today written by Rev. Leonard Verduin, minister emeritus in the Christian Reformed Church. This article; entitled “Man, a Created Being: What of an Animal Ancestry?” was evidently also alarming to the editors of this paper, for they took the unusual and unprecedented step of commenting directly upon the article—and: much of the comment was critical.
We cannot offer a complete review of the article, but give instead a few quotations to illustrate how far the theory of evolutionism has penetrated the thinking of theological leaders even in the Reformed Churches.
After discussing the idea of creation “out of nothing”, the author goes on to say:
But . . . one can speak of creation in more senses than one, that not all that can rightly be called creating is covered by the formula “to make something out of nothing.”
The Bible also calls it creating when God exercises his creative power upon already existing materials and uses them as the raw materials for further creative performance. The creation of man according to the Bible was an act performed upon already existing stuff, called “the dust of the ground.” Man’s creation therefore was not ex nihilo.
Apart from the fact that it is highly doubtful whether one is correct in speaking of “creation out of nothing” (at least Scripture never uses the expression), the author surely speaks truly here. But then, after a discussion of the meaning of immanence, the way is paved for evolutionism by these remarks:
It would seem, moreover, that the creative act of God seen from the vantage point of his immanence has the dimension of the drawn-out, the processive, the gradual, the progressive, the time-consuming.
It would seem, finally, that the creative act seen in the light of God’s transcendence is immediate creation, whereas the creative act seen in the light of God’s immanence is mediate creation.
A glance at the Genesis account shows very clearly that the inspired writer had no desire whatsoever to keep the idea of process and of progress out of the narrative. He manifestly did not think that the idea of process was foreign to the creationism he was promoting . . . . If the figure is permissible, the writer of Genesis thought of the creating hand not simply as a hand that snaps a finger and, lo, there it is, but quite as much as a hand that molds and makes, with the prodigal disregard for the passing of time that marks the hand of him who fashions a work of art.
From here the author turns to a discussion of the orthodox rejection of evolutionism in bygone years and gives a brief history of pantheistic thought, of modernism and fundamentalism. But then he shows clearly his disregard for the narrative of Scripture and for its infallible inspiration. He writes:
We have noted that God was creating mediately when he made man and did so with recourse to already existing stuff. The Bible says that this stuff was “dust”—for we read: “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground,” and there is added, “and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
But what was this “dust”?
It is hardly in keeping with the lofty tenor of the Genesis account to conjure up the picture of Deity stooping down to scoop up a shovelful of pulverized earth, adding the necessary liquid to bind it together, then kneading it into shape, with groins, ridges, eye sockets, and a protuberance with nostrils in it into which the Almighty then blew a puff of air, so concluding the experiment. This is out of keeping with the primitive dignity of the Genesis story.
How did the word “dust” get into the story? We submit that it was by way of a Hebrew fondness for circular representation. One finds among the Hebrew poets of the Bible an often recurring fondness for beginning at a point and then returning to it after a circuit has been made . . . .
Can it be that it was this beautiful device of the circle that led the not prosaic writer of Genesis to say that God took of the dust of the earth as he went about to create man? This poetic soul had contemplated the solemn fact that man’s last chapter is written in the dust—did he perhaps, to satisfy his love of the circular, take the poetic license to say that man’s first chapter is likewise written in the dust? Did not he, or a colleague of his, introduce God as saying, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,”
With this “prodigal disregard” for the meaning of creation and the significance of the Scriptural narrative, the author has paved the way for saying that the creation of man is a process so that man was formed by God from lower forms of life. Turning to the fact that man was created in the image of God, Verduin finds this image to consist (at least in part) in the fact that man, even as God, creates—but in creating, never does this from scratch, but always uses the work of his predecessors. So:
If this is implied in “after his likeness”—as we are convinced it is—then the Lord God also does not start “from scratch” but utilizes the already existing, takes the most likely raw materials, touches this with his creative finger, thereby raising it to a new level of existence.
This would imply that the “dust” that constituted the raw materials in man’s coming into being was not on the chemical nor even on the vegetable level. This rather was the raw material, the end result of God’s immediately preceding creative act. Which is to say that he started on the sixth “day” with the givens of the fifth . . . .
By this formula man is genuinely continuous with the lower animal world and with the still lower that preceded the animal world; he is genuinely continuous with the whole organic order and with the inorganic. By this formula he is also genuinely discontinuous, different, unique—the result of the creative touch of the Almighty.
This is not the end of the article. The author goes on to discuss a few other aspects of his problem and concludes with a warning that the geological evidence to support “missing links” in the evolutionary change which leads to man is negligible. He concludes with saying:
Men went into the earth to prove process. They have proved much of process, much of continuity; but the records of their diggings prove just as plainly that there has been plenty of discontinuity. In fact, the evidence of “gaps” is as eloquent as that of continuity. First-class scientists are saying that the hiatus is at least as apparent as the link.
For all the field work tells us, man popped onto the scene all of a sudden—precisely as Genesis has it . . . .
But the entire argument finally comes down to this: from a total perversion of the Scriptural doctrine of the image, the author concludes the theory of evolutionism as applicable to man also, And in doing so, the Word of God must again be abused.
CHURCH AND STATE
From the time that Constantine the Great made Christianity a legal religion in the Roman Empire and threw the weight of the State’s power behind the Church in the early part of the fourth century, the knotty problem of the relation between Church and State has troubled the people of God. There were times when the question was purely academic—something nice to talk about and debate, but not of pressing importance. There were other times when the problem was urgent and demanded some solution to preserve the Church itself. Such a time as the latter was the time of the Reformation. Such a time was also the time of the Synod of Dordrecht and the years of the Secession which began in 1834.
In the early days of the settlement of this country, the colonies usually established state churches. For example, in Virginia the Anglican Faith was the “state” religion; in Massachusetts it was Congregationalism. All this gradually was changed with the Revolutionary War, and the time after the war was a period of building the wall of separation. The First Amendment to the Constitution was the final word.
However, in recent years cracks have been showing up in the wall. The question of the relation between Church and State is once again being discussed in connection with such matters as federal aid to education, devotions in the public schools, etc. Many felt that the old wall was crumbling and this is probably true.
Now something new has turned up. Time has recently reported on a facet of the problem which is not generally known. We quote a paragraph from a recent issue:
In Mississippi, a $7,000,000 Government-financed program for retraining unemployed poor, mostly Negroes, is being run through an agency organized by a Roman Catholic diocese. In New Mexico, the $1,261,000 appropriated to retrain migrant workers was granted by the Federal Government to an organization set up by the state Council of Churches. In city after U.S. city this summer, churches played a major role in launching Project Head Start, the preschool training program for underprivileged children. In all, more than 100 federal programs are providing vast amounts of Government money to church related agencies—and uncounted millions of dollars more will be heading their way as a result of Lyndon Johnson’s education and Medicare legislation.
There has been some opposition to this strange turn of events; but the opposition is surprisingly mild, scattered and weak. Most seem eager to get on with the thing without asking too many questions about what problems of the relation between Church and State are raised.
The point is that millions of dollars which are spent each year by the government in social welfare programs are now being channeled through the Church. The Church has become a sort of welfare agency of the government. It is the left arm of the government to help eradicate social ills which plague our times. It has entered into a partnership with the government to pursue the goals of a “great society”.
There is something frightening about all this.
Obviously, what was long suspected is indeed true. The goals of the Church which ought to be busy seeking the kingdom of heaven are now identical with the goals of the secular state. Both labor together in a common cause. And the cause is evil. The Episcopalian bishop of Chicago put it this way: It is the duty of American Christianity to do something relevant about social problems. “From there it is only another short step into deliberate partnership in the war on poverty and in educational projects.”
Nor can we escape the nagging question of what all this does to Christian charity. The Church, called to dispense the mercy of her faithful High Priest Jesus Christ, has tried to join Christ with Caesar and lost every vestige of mercy that there is.
Yet one can hardly blame the government. The Church has forsaken her wedding vows by which she was betrothed to Christ. Instead she has begun flirting with the secular government and all but begged to be wedded to it. Handing out advice of every conceivable sort and in every possible situation to the government, the Church has flirted with other lovers. No wonder that the government is sorely tempted to make use of the church to serve its own ends. This is now being done. This is only the beginning. Prostituted in the service of the state, the Church shall at last lose all when the man of sin appears, who is not only a universal political ruler, but also sits in the temple of God.