The relevance of creationism to evangelism (part 3)

How does a belief in creation or evolution influence evangelism?

This is the third column in a series addressing the question of how creation affects evangelism.  Many people have dismissed the issue of origin as just an interesting side issue that is not relevant to the gospel message.  However, a correct biblical view of origin is essential to understanding, explaining and defending the good news of salvation found in the Lord Jesus Christ.

In order to understand the importance of the biblical creation view of origin it is helpful to examine how philosophical naturalism has immersed the mind of our culture.  We live in a time in history saturated in the evolution explanation of origin.  In every level of education, in all forms of media and even in many seminaries and churches evolution is accepted blindly.  Because of this widespread gullibility many Christians have unwittingly accepted the philosophical framework upon which evolution is built: naturalism.  Naturalism is defined as the doctrine that the mechanistic laws of nature are adequate to explain all phenomena.  This way of thinking has become so ingrained in the thinking of so many people, even Christians, that it is difficult for them to imagine any other way.

It is especially difficult to refute because many have equated naturalism and evolution to science.  This is why when you turn on public television or open a science textbook evolution is not even defined as a theory, but is said to be a fact.  This recasting of evolution as fact protects it from testability.  In other words, the only way evolution can survive debate is to prevent debate.  It redefines science so as to prohibit any non-naturalistic explanation of reality.  Walter Remind objects, "Yet this redefinition of science is wrongheaded.  Naturalism is not he criterion for science.  Science does not begin by assuming all phenomena are naturalistic.  Instead, the basis for science is the search for truth."

Therefore, the endpoint in the search for truth is Jesus Christ, who is "the way, the TRUTH, and the life."  Sadly, when the Christian allows the evolutionist to get away with this kind of intellectual "cheating" the gospel is destroyed.  This is why in so many churches the gospel has been reduced to a product to sell like Corn Flakes or a new car.  By unconsciously accepting naturalism the Christian undermines the gospel.  It doesn't seem so harmful at first to accept naturalism even thought it means that a supernatural, instantaneous creation of the heavens and the earth is beyond reality.  But because naturalism by definition means anything supernatural is unreal then it excludes the possibility of ever arriving at truth.  Theologian Douglas Kelly writes of the famous Dutch theologian and statesman, Abraham Kuyper, who "once pointed out, naturalistic philosophy excludes the possibility of ever learning the truth about origins by neglecting essential facts about the condition of man: his fallenness, and his need for regeneration and for divine revelation."  Kelly also wrote, "Any sort of reference to God, supernatural causation and faith, they argue, takes one outside the boundaries of genuine science and into the land of imagination and mythology.  Only naturalistic evolution can honestly claim to be science.  All else is faith, ignorance and superstition."  On the other hand, he wrote, "…if the church does seriously address creation, people immediately perceive that God is interacting with the real world…"

Therefore, the Christian who accepts naturalism is left with only two choices.  The first option, taken by many, is to allegorize Genesis and call it poetry.  The second option for those unwilling to sound too liberal is to somehow try to fit naturalism into the Bible.  Doing so leaves them without a defense for their faith.  Romans 1:20 states, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."  God and His invisible attributes are seen through what He has made.  Conversely, to deny a supernatural explanation of what "has been made" because of a commitment to naturalism leaves one "without excuse."  Those two words come from the one Greek word, "anapologetos."  This is the negative of the word "apologia" translated as "defense" in 1 Peter 3:15: "…always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you…"  Thus, to allow a philosophy of naturalism, (the mechanistic laws of nature can explain all things), is to be without a defense for "the hope" that is in us.

Apologetics is essential to evangelism.  By allowing evolution and the framework of naturalism upon which it is built to define our view of the world we see around us, leaves us "without excuse," without an apologetic and without a gospel.

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©Tom Carpenter
Originally published in the Rockdale/Newton Citizen