Presenting the Biblical Creation
Position on the Secular Campus
The following paper presents preliminary conclusions drawn from attempts to defend the Biblical Creation position on the secular college campus both by myself and by my children and friends. Our outreach has been directed primarily to professors and students of the social sciences and humanities. This paper is not intended as a blueprint for similar efforts by others since those to whom we speak are highly individual, non-average men and women. Still less is it the purpose of this paper to find fault with other campus ministries committed to our Lord and His Word.
By "the Biblical creation position" I mean unequivocal belief in special creation; literal Bible interpretation; the Triune God's design and purpose in nature: a young earth; a universal Noachian Flood; Christ as God and Man our Saviour; and Christ-centered thought and action in all areas of life. This position is a fundamental and integral part of trusting faith in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Personal God Who hears and answers prayer and Who Himself by His sovereign Word created all things ex nihilo and holds them together (Colossians 1:16-17).
The Biblical creation position is incompatible with any and all forms of "process theology" or "process philosophy" because they posit an impersonal evolutionistic universe in which the difference between Creator and creature and the identity of man made in God the Creator's own image are erased.
The more intelligent and reflective we found those to whom we presented our position. the more evident it was that it is precisely our differing perception of the origins and hence the nature of reality which divides us. Let us call the Biblical creation position Perception A, and the intelligent, reflective unbelievers' position Perception B.
Perception A sees reality as the "given" expression of the Person of God the Creator. Perception B sees reality as a self-contained impersonal ongoing succession of temporal circumstances, a chain of events or a "process."
The extent of the difference between Perception A's view of reality as personal and Perception B's view of reality as impersonal cannot be overemphasized. A reflective consistent unbeliever may be expected, under Perception B, to see man in general and himself in particular as a mere phenomenon or "the product of causes in which his volition took no part".' Re may be expected to deny that he possesses meaningful selfhood and moral responsibility. The consistent Christian believer holding to the Biblical creation position on the other hand may be expected to see man in general and himself in particular created in the image of Him Whose name is "1 am" as a person with meaningful selfhood and moral responsibility.
It came nevertheless as a shock to me to have this prediction confirmed when This article was written in private consultation with Dr. Gerald H. Paske, associate professor' of philosophy at Wichita State University The author gratefully acknowledges Dr. Paske's part in insuring this paper's fairness towards those who do not share the Biblical creation position; and also, his help in matters of organization and style. The author of course bears full responsibility for the contents and their inadequacies.
A reflective unbeliever told me early in our acquaintance: "I have no self". He had attempted to find a way out of strict determinism by establishing a self with moral responsibility on the foundation of human rationality. But selfhood and personhood with moral responsibility cannot evolve from impersonal processes, and rationality only presents, not compels, a choice. What are we to make of heroism or martyrdom chosen against the counsel of reason? Perception B cannot predict acts of heroism or martyrdom, the highest exercise of moral responsibility by man's self transcending "man's character as so far formed" (the determinist synonym for "self'). Perception A the Biblical creation position both predicts and demands such acts.
The denial of one's own self appears to me to be the most tragic inference from Perception B. By depersonalizing reality it dehumanizes man. Nor must we grant the reflective (or any kind of) unbeliever the title "realist," which we would like, accusing us who believe in God of superstition. It is not reality itself which leads to his unbelief; it is his own perception of reality, his chosen view of it as an impersonal, self-contained, evolutionary process.
For Perception A reality is. For Perception B reality becomes.
For Perception A there are absolutes. For Perception B there are only relatives (a logical extrapolation of this position, though some unbelievers are very uncomfortable with it).
Perception A sees truth as that which precedes and transcends culture, historical periods, public opinion, majority rule or any other temporal factors, and hence as unchangeable. Perception B sees truth as evolving and hence by definition as subject to change. This is a crucial difference, since the Biblical salvation concept involves nothing so much as how each of us deals with truth. Pilate crucified Christ, shrugging "What is truth?" We are told that those who perish do so "because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved." (2 Thessalonians 2:10) In a privately distributed poem on Satan entitled God of This World I put it thusly:
I would be my own lord and saviour! Die, Christ! I trample Your blood underfoot again and again. My kingdom, this world, is built deliberately upon despising the Kingdom of Heaven upon my truth, the truth of the moment ever murdering the Everlasting Truth...
Perception A views the present state of reality as a descent from its originally designed perfection, redeemable only by the grace of God. Perception B views the present state of reality as a point on the graph of a temporal infinite process generally proceeding from simple to complex, from lower to higher, so that what lies in the past is prima facie "less developed" and hence implicitly less good than that which is present or future. Perception B sees man about to assume the direction of this process by means of science; this means, in the words of C. S. Lewis, "a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument."2
Perception A allows that truth may evolve in the sense of unfolding, as the oak unfolds from the acorn or as the purebred plant or animal unfolds from its original stock. But Perception A denies that truth may evolve from error, even as an oak may not evolve from a cherry pit nor a purebred German shepherd dog from a kitten. Perception A holds that evolving in the sense of unfolding is evidence of the Creator's teleological design inherent in all His creation, implicit in the fixed kinds of Genesis 1 and explicit in the explanation of why Unbelievers are without excuse of Romans 1:20. This design is shown as well in God's self-revelation through His written word where we see the New Testament "unfolding" from the Old, and in His Incarnate Word Jesus Christ Who came into this world as a babe and Who "increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52).
I do not believe that what is loosely called theistic evolution can be creditably defended on Biblical grounds. It is akin to if not identical with process theology and so close to Perception B that it cannot present itself as a clear and convincing alternative to reflective minds. As a thoughtful unbeliever put it tome, "If I were a believer, I would be a fundamentalist Bible-believing Christian. This concept of God alone is consistent and makes sense." I will now come to the practical aspects of presenting our position.
No one should present our position to anyone, especially to a college professor, unless called and prepared by God in prayer. Conversely, once we have begun our witness we must not withdraw unless and until our Heavenly Father Himself makes it very clear to us that this is His will. There must be no ulterior motives. His will alone is sufficient grounds for our witness to an unbelieving college professor. (I Corinthians 1:26). Over and over again God may send us to a particular person with seemingly no changes in him or her. The 19th century saint George Mueller prayed for two men for 52 years and saw them converted in the end. My father prayed for me for 28 years and did not live to see me converted. I admit with shame that I fretted over not seeing one converted after praying for him for a mere eight years. "Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap if we faint not." (Galatians 6:9) We can only plant and water as God sends us; giving the increase in His prerogative (I Corinthians 3:6,7).
2. Love and Personal Involvement
Do not confront anyone, least of all the unbelieving professor, unless you love him or her with God's love which gave His only begotten Son for this professor's salvation even as for yours. This professor was made by God even as you and I in His own image to be His beloved son or daughter. Christ's blood shed on Calvary purchased and pleads for this professor even as for you and me. Our ministry is that of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
To the atheist unbeliever and erstwhile philosophy professor Jean-Paul Sartre, "hell is other people (l'enfer, c'est les autres)".3 But to us, hell is to be apart forever from God and other people. (Luke 16:26).
Creation itself and in particular God's creation of man in His image shows that God the Father desires many sons so God the Son might "be the firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:29). Reaffirmed by Christ's Incarnation and Atonement it establishes human relationships as personal and loving. Our witness to the Biblical creation position therefore enjoins us to seek interaction with our neighbors, believers as well as unbelievers, at the deepest possible personal level.
Lastly, let us not 'judge" the unbeliever. By this I mean (a) no prejudice, such as that "all unbelieving professors are unfair to believers"; I testify this is simply not true. (b) no "labeling", such as calling all professors "radicals" or "anti-family". The individual you are dealing with may be quite old-fashioned in actual lifestyle, and/or inconsistent in belief. (c) no premature assessments of the unbeliever's personality or reaction to ourselves and our position.
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts. (1 Cor. 4:5a)
It has been my experience that while we set out to present the Biblical creation position to unbelievers and so in some sense to teach them, we ourselves are taught beyond all expectation. I will deal with details when discussing possible weaknesses and dangers a little later on. Here let me point out our being taught respect for the unbeliever's professional ability, intelligence, preparation and plain hard work, and better ways to present our position as we see the background and vantage point of the unbeliever and of unbelievers in general.
Our Lord also can and does use our relationships with unbelievers to bless us by increased understanding of His Word. when dealing with persistent and able opponents we are driven to search the Scriptures deeply and to rely upon God's strength and wisdom rather than our own meager resources. After "descending into hell" to speak to the unbeliever and by all means draw him in love to Him Who is Love and Truth we enter into our Lord's joy and freedom far above anything we thought possible.
To sum up, in our relating to unbelieving professors and students a spirit of unteachable, loveless pharisaism to be shunned above all else. Let us humbly admit our own faults, errors and ignorances before and while attempting to convict others.
4. Academic Preparation
One reason why not many Christians are called to defend the Biblical creation position in college is that not many are academically fit. We had better understand that the ability to reason logically, to read with understanding, to write lucidly and to be able to verbalize our position in the face of intelligent opposition is a must if we would present our position creditably in classroom debate.
One of my sons found himself in a class conducted by an intensely emotional professor hating Christians to the point of repeated invective and other violent verbal attacks upon my son and my (then still living) husband. My son studied hardest for this class so as never to be remiss in duty. For remember, as students we are under the God-given authority of our teachers (Hebrews 13:17 applies). The teacher's hostility was countered by calm respect and reasoning yet perseverance in conviction. My son earned the teacher's respect, an A in the course, and won an initially mostly neutral class over to at least respect and in some instances acceptance of his/our position.
5. "Prove all Things"
We must never, and I repeat never go along with even the professor's very first statements we clearly perceive to be in contradiction to the Biblical creation position. This does not mean immediate or even obligatory public repudiation for it is impossible to publicly repudiate every anti-Biblical statement in the college classroom we must reserve our fire for the most important issues. But we must not uncritically accept anything and be continually alert to error; and we must watch lest we be swept away timidly, lazily or unawares by a tide of confusion.
Sometimes rebuttal is necessary very soon. For example, on the very first day of an ethics class I was compelled to question my professor's introductory statement that ethics rests upon non-ethical premises. Remember what we said earlier: an oak does not evolve from a cherry pit; even so ethical norms do not evolve from non-ethical premises such as that "the world is round", my professor's example of a non-ethical premise. "What ethical norm or 'ought' proposition can be deduced from the non-ethical premise or 'is' proposition that the world is round?" 1 asked. Technically this is an example of what is known in philosophy as "Hume's Gap" "Ought" cannot be deduced from "is." This is as fine an illustration of "fixed kinds" as you could wish for and all the more useful to Biblical creation apologetics as the philosopher David Hume for whom it is named was an agnostic. My professor never resolved this question. Following Thomas Acquinas, Cahal B. Daly sees the root of ethics in God's creation of man as a moral agent.4 Daly comments on Hume's Gap and ethics as follows:
Is it true, or how far is it true, that one cannot derive ought is? It is certainly true that one cannot, with (utilitarian philosopher) Mill, conclude from "this is desired" (a psychological generalization) to "this is desirable, i.e. morally good" (a moral or value judgment). It is true that one cannot argue from "this is the direction of evolutionary advance," to "this is morally right" though, despite (philosopher G.E.) Moore, the Waddingtons and Julian Huxleys are still doing this.5
C.S. Lewis begins his Case for Christianity with a treatise on "Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe"6 precisely because the existence of the Moral Law (ethical norms) as a universal integral pan of human relations can only be accounted for by God's creation of man as a moral agent. The existence of the Moral Law per Se rules out the evolutionist view of reality as a self-contained impersonal process.
You can see why I could not let my professor's introductory statement go unchallenged. The entire validity of either Biblical creation or evolutionist unbelief was involved. I will add that some of the above implications were merely sensed and not verbally present in my consciousness when I rose to the challenge, impelled by a burning sense of duty under God. The only actual knowledge on which to base my challenge available to me at that time was a variation of Hume's Gap remembered from C.S. Lewis's invaluable Abolition of Man. It is as follows:
From propositions about fact alone no practical conclusions can ever be drawn. This will preserve society cannot lead to do this except by the mediation of society ought to be preserved This will cost you your life cannot lead directly to do not do this: it can lead to it only through a felt desire or an acknowledged duty of self preservation. The Innovator is trying to get a conclusion in the imperative mood out of premises in the indicative mood: and though he continues trying to all eternity he cannot succeed, for the thing is impossible.7
B. Attacks upon our Faith
It is indeed possible to undergo severe trials of faith when engaged in presenting our position to unbelievers. Attacks upon our faith will come when and where least expected. Well-meaning fellow Christians may make us doubt our purpose and qualifications. Unbelievers will single out and savagely pierce any weak spots in our armor of faith. Prayer support from, and sharing joys and troubles with Christian brothers and sisters is indispensable. Our Lord blessed me with such, and in particular with one beloved "friend who sticketh closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24). Without them my campus outreach could neither have begun nor endured.
Yet such attacks strengthen our faith in the end. Persevering in faith on the ideological battlefield of the secular college transforms us who are called to this service into bold and joyous soldiers of our Lord. I pray for many more laborers in this vineyard without the least fear for the safety of anyone recruited by our Lord.
C. "The Last Temptation"
We said earlier that there must be no ulterior motives but doing God's Will alone in our witness. T.S. Eliot tells us that The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.8
In the play from which these words are taken the glory of martyrdom is the wrong reason for martyrdom. The only right reason for martyrdom is to be martyred in chosen obedience to God's will. Even so, if we present the Biblical creation to unbelievers for any other ultimate reason but because this is God's will for us, we use God by making Him a means to some end of our own.
(1) We must not present the Biblical creation position to members of the academic community merely to show that we Christians too can he intelligent, reflective people. This is a temptation especially when overhearing some such remark as the one made by a professor in my hearing: "Christians are incapable of reasoning logically."
(2) We must not present our position merely to gain greater influence on campus, perhaps by winning some influential faculty member over to "our side." I myself have trouble with accepting such a motive even as a "co-reason" for our witness. But it is a temptation especially when the Christian faculty on one's campus is small in number and courage, and when our position is misrepresented and our people ridiculed and despised.
(3) Our ultimate reason for presenting our position to the unbeliever cannot be to see him convened. True, "God wills all men to he saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). Therefore, when we are burdened for the conversion of a particular person, we may confidently take it that the burden is of God. But first and foremost we must say what we say and do what we do because we obey the God of the Bible.
As we said earlier, God may send us to a particular person over and over again over a long period of time with seemingly no change in that person's belief. Would we then not slacken or consider the work a failure if our ultimate reason for our witness were to see the unbeliever convened? Ezekiel was sent to "a stiffnecked and rebellious people" to speak God's words to them "whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear." (Ezekiel 2:3-8). We are called to present the Biblical creation position in the same spirit of unconditional obedience to God's will, our ultimate motive and reason.
I speak with great tenderness here. I know what it is to be so burdened for a special person that our own salvation seems incomplete without the other's. I know what it is to yearn for another's sharing of our own joy, peace and certainty, to ache at the sight of the other's inner unhappiness and emptiness, to count no effort too great, no service too low, no loving contact or word ill spent or excessive, to open one 5 own self unreservedly for the other to observe if only that will help him see Christ. I know what it is to bear this love as pain when, as seems to happen often with unbelieving college faculty members, they alternate in their reaction to use between responding and resisting, "hot" and "cold", joy and fury or contempt. I know what it is to pray to have our love restored to earlier fullness so as not to abandon the beloved unbeliever to eternal lovelessness.
I do not really know what it would be like to withdraw from one so loved. But I do know that I must persevere not so my will should be done but so the will of our Father in Heaven should be done, and in His time; and I know that without His so willing it I could not persevere in love even for one second. Presenting our position to unbelievers, then, is ultimately God's work, or rather God's Work in and with us by His grace. Even as all His creation glorifies Rim, so will He be glorified abundantly by this work of His hands over which He has given us dominion (Psalm 8:6).
1 Bernard Berofsky, editor, Free will and Determinism, (New York: Harper & Row, 1966) 37.
2 CS Lewis, The Abolition of Man, (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co.. Inc., Fourteenth Printing 1976), 69.
3 Jean-Paul Sartre, No Exit, (New York: Random House, Vintage Books Edition, September 1955), 47.
4 Cahal B. Daly, Morals, Law and Life, (Chicago: Scepter Publishers, 1966), 29.
5 Ibid., 31.
6 Lewis, The Case for Christianity, (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Twenty-Third Printing 1974), 3-28; also in C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Nineteenth Printing 1975), 17-39.
7 C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, 43-44.
8 T.S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral, (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., Harvest Book HB 72, 1935,1963), 44.