Two Decades of Creationism

by Walter and Valeria Lang



Opposition to the creationist position may be expected from the scientific community and educators, but it ought not come from church people, especially church leaders. However, in the first twenty years of modern creationism, the most bitter opposition has come from within church circles. This is changing now as scientists realize the threat which creationism poses to their position. Because creation is taught in Scripture, one might expect Christians to give full support.

In conversations with older pastors, they claimed there was no reference to the Gospel in the Bible-Science program. This criticism was helpful because it led to emphasizing the connection between science and Gospel. For this reason the "Five Minute" magazines were published. Lang recognized that the Gospel has a much wider application than most Christians give it. The Gospel is not to be used only when in church or when having devotions or when in trouble; this is only a partial Gospel. Having a total Gospel (according to Col. 1:18 and 3:17) means to use the Gospel in all areas of our lives.

Social Gospel

Some are concerned that this approach will lead to a social gospel which is concerned mainly with helping needy people. Christians have always been in the forefront of social work, but this is not the Gospel; it is one product of the Gospel. Separation of Gospel from science may well lead to a "Ghetto Gospel" where it is restricted to certain areas of life. During the Middle Ages, for example, doing the ordinary and mundane tasks of life was regarded as being strictly secular. Only by joining a monastery or convent could a person become truly spiritual, it was claimed.

While Lang was driving the moving truck from Idaho to Minnesota, he lost a wheel near Rock Springs, Wyoming. At the airport he was not allowed to board, for the flight was canceled due to bad weather. Rather than burden anyone with picking him up, he decided to spend the night in the airport, taking an afternoon flight the next day.

Among others delayed was a Catholic social worker. He was a theistic evolutionist who maintained that accepting a six-day creation and a young-earth concept was reverting to the Middle Ages. He was representative of many Christians who believe that evolution is a proven fact and that they must compromise their Christian faith with this "fact." Many of these people will never change their beliefs, but some will recognize that the creation position is superior.

On June 17, 1979 a small tour group flew to Juneau, Alaska in a mission plane. The Lutheran pastor at the downtown church, Rev. Milton Hunt, was contacted. The church had been rebuilt after having been burned by fanatics several years earlier. A presentation by Dr. Thomas Barnes and Rev. Walter Lang was arranged, and afterward a young lady said this was not important to her church life. It was noted that it is important because evolution is a pagan religion which masquerades as respectable science. This young lady's attitude is much like that of many church people, particularly in the Midwest, who accept a six-day creation and a young earth, but then say "So What?". We have been given a mission challenge in our day to combat the pagan religion of evolution.

Bible Colleges

Here we digress a bit on Bible Colleges. Because these schools have been founded for the purpose of training particularly missionaries for foreign fields, as well as other church work, one would expect a concentration on Bible study and less interest in Bible-Science relationships. This is in contrast to liberal arts colleges. However, in the past twenty-two years of working in the creationist movement, we have found genuine interest in this subject. Dr. Morris and Dr. Whitcomb and others can attest to this also. When other schools refused creationist speakers, these schools opened their doors to them.

In the spring of 1975 when Lang and Burdick were on tour in Europe, they found Dr. Whitcomb all over Europe, speaking mainly in Bible Colleges. Burdick and Lang served at Bible Colleges in Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, England and Germany.

Although creationists in the Seattle area were active, and the Bible Institute in Issaquah was aware of this, it was not until 1980 that this institution, recently moved into its fine quarters purchased from the Catholics, scheduled Lang for talks. There was enthusiasm for a summer seminar. A vice president, Floyd Nelson, had been exposed to creationism while a student dean at Faith Seminary at Tacoma, Washington.

Progressive Creation

In April of 1979 when a bill was introduced in the Minnesota state legislature, allowing for the teaching of creation, a Catholic priest, Dr. Grogan, in charge of the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota, opposed the bill at the hearings. He accepted progressive creation, allowing him to harmonize evolution and Scripture. He believed that the creation process is still in progress and that God uses evolution as His method of creation. He failed to show how the universe could arrive through present laws. The word "finished" in Genesis 2:1 means that the laws employed in the creation process are no longer in use. Preservation laws have replaced creation laws.


When Lang and Burdick were in Germany in 1975, Church of Christ people in Berlin sponsored a presentation at the American Air Base. Lang was sent to Frankfurt to serve a Church of Christ at Oberursal, suburb of Frankfurt, whose membership consisted mainly of American service personnel. An opportunity was afforded to visit with Dr. E. Oesch at the Lutheran Free Seminary at Oberursal, a conservative theologian who has often been censured for his acceptance of Biblical inerrancy. Even at this conservative seminary there
were professors who accepted theistic evolution. Yet, after the presentation, Oesch accepted creationism for its apologetic value rather than as having initiative value. It was the famous Spurgeon who said "A lion needs no defense." This is a common attitude.

Bible Not a Book of Science

It is often stated that the Bible is not a book of science. When this is meant to convey the thought that Scripture is superior to science, we agree, for only Scripture is absolute. But most people believe that science is superior to Scripture with regard to the world of nature.

Aldert van der Ziel, originally from Holland, was a prominent physicist at the University of Minnesota and a member of a conservative Lutheran church. In 1961 he published The Natural Sciences and the Christian Message44 as a unit of the Lutheran Scholarship series. He contended that nature is amoral and, therefore, it cannot be joined with Scripture which has to do with morality. To do so would not only remove objectivity from science, but would also detract from Scripture's spirituality. Along with this position, the author also accepted the historical-critical position that Moses is not the author of the Pentateuch and that these first five books of the Bible were not completed until about 900 B.C. What he was trying to gain was "time" for his model of evolution, for evolution needs time, vast amounts of time.

Even some people holding to a very conservative position maintain such a separation is necessary. Prof. Paul Boehlke of Dr. Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota presented a paper at the 1980 Bible-Science convention in the Chicago area. He contended that as science is constituted today, it opposes Scripture, and this cannot be changed; therefore, these subjects must be studied entirely apart from one another. Nature is not contaminated by sin as much as some claim, he said, and he even suggested there may have been some scientific error in connection with Jacob's manipulating conception of Laban's cattle and sheep.

In an answer provided in the September, 1980 Newsletter,45 it was noted that science, contaminated by human sin, is subject to change. We need not fear, as did the Ten Spies who had been sent throughout Canaan to search the land and who reported giants living there. Only Joshua and Caleb had faith that the giants could be conquered as David had conquered Goliath.

With regard to Jacob's rods, we read in Genesis 31:12 that God directed the conception of Laban's flocks. Dr. Morris notes in his book, Genesis Record,46 that when Jacob pilled the rods, certain chemicals may have been released, aiding in the conception.

Christian Colleges

Problems have cropped up at some Christian colleges. In 1974 the president of a Seventh Day Adventist school in Tacoma Park, Maryland (Washington, D.C. area) attempted to abolish its science department, believing that science is unimportant in a Christian school. This is unexpected in a school where there is much emphasis on health and nutrition, doctors and hospitals.

Then there are Christian colleges in which professors in the science department are creationists but faculty members in the theology department are at least theistic evolutionists. Some years ago this problem cropped up at Faith Seminary in Philadelphia, at Southeastern Bible College in Philadelphia (while Dr. Gary Parker was teaching), and George Fox College in Newberg, Oregon (when Dr. Donald Chittick first taught there).

The College of Idaho in Caldwell was founded under auspices of the Presbyterian church. Evolution was taught already in the 1930s. The church body resisted for a time, but then the whole body became liberal. When BSA donated a copy of The Genesis Flood11 to the college library, it was refused. When Walter Lang asked to audit a course in geology, he was refused because a creationist in the class would be disruptive even though an audit student may not speak
unless invited to by the instructor.

The Nazarene college nearby was closely tied to its church body and, while officials believed the creation position was taught, its science instructors accepted evolution. In recent years creationism is making some headway at this school, but the science department remains rooted in evolution.

At the hearings on a "creation bill" before the Minnesota legislature in 1979, leading opponents were theologians. They included the head of the Catholic Newman Center on campus at the University of Minnesota and the dean at Northwestern Lutheran Seminary (LCA). No creationist was permitted to speak at this school.

On a 1976 tour hike down the Grand Canyon the BSA group met members of a geology class from the Grand Canyon College at Phoenix, Arizona. Next day they met them again at the Indian Gardens campground. Their guide and instructor was Paul Young. He was interested until he learned that the BSA group accepted an age of about 6000 years for the Grand Canyon. This position detracted from God's power, he claimed. Group members countered that God's power was being degraded when His creation process was restricted to His preservation processes.

It can be reported that as the creation movement is becoming significant, some Christian colleges are teaching the creationist view. An example is Northwestern College in Roseville, Minnesota. At Bethel College, a Baptist school in the Twin Cities area, theistic evolution has been favored. However, in response to talks by creationists such as Dr. Barnes, interest in the creationist position is expanding.
Catholic schools have traditionally accepted theistic evolution. When Dr. Bolton Davidheiser, biologist, La Mirada, California, was in the Twin Cities area, he spoke at St. Thomas College. In the student body of 5000 there are many who are preparing for medical professions.

Controversy in LCMS

An illustration of changes taking place may be seen in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. Bible-Science Association may have played some part in this. The Newsletter has been distributed widely among pastors and teachers of this body and creationist litera- ture has been exhibited at conventions, beginning at the Detroit meeting in 1965. With election of a more conservative president, this church body grew more conservative. A new church body came into being when students and professors of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis left to form their own organization. By 1983 nearly 250 congregations had left LCMS to join the American Evangelical Lutheran Church (AELC) which is now attempting to merge with the American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church of America. The future for conservatism in the churches is unclear.

It is a blessing of the Lord that He has led a church body to reverse the trend toward liberalism. Harvard, once a Bible College, is a haven for Marxists. Valparaiso University in Indiana, an LCMS-related school, has served as a base for liberalism in that church body. Continued prayer and work may some day return these schools to their original position.

Tradition Versus Total Gospel

Conservatives generally credit the turnaround from liberal to conservative to a return to traditional positions. If this is the case, the situation may soon reverse again. On the other hand, if effort is concentrated on achieving a scholarly initiative, as is being done within the creation movement, there ought to be a steady momentum toward conservatism. A movement cannot be developed which will continue to remain orthodox through tradition and politics alone; there needs to be a scholarly and philosophical initiative.

Biblical Inerrancy

Much of the controversy within mainline churches has been over Biblical inerrancy. Is the Bible truly inerrant or does it accommodate itself to ideas of the time? At a time when long-held evolution theories are being reassessed, it has become clear that Scripture is accurate in all its scientific statements. A few people contend that the Bible is inerrant simply because God has so stated. This is true, but let us not overlook the Biblical doctrine of perfection. God created a perfect universe (Gen. 1:31), but when man sinned, all of nature was cursed (Gen. 3) with thorns and thistles infesting the ground. But God still demands perfection (Matt. 5:48) and neither man nor nature can supply this. To restore perfection, God sacrificed His own Son, Jesus Christ, into death on the cross. All who accept this on faith are regarded as perfect before God. Through the double miracle of inspiration (II Pet. 1:21) and preservation (Ps. 12:7) we have an inerrant Bible.

Things New and Old

It has been said there is a fear of new things within the conservative groups and some people are turned off by this situation. Some scientists also fear that if Scripture is introduced into their disciplines, the result will be too much dogmatism. New ideas are necessary for science. This, however, is not a true assessment. In Matthew 13:52 Christ describes the Bible as a chest from which treasures, both new and old, are drawn. And let us not forget, God's understanding is infinite. Though the Bible is unchangeable, it represents the mind of God and there is no emptying it.

In this connection it is well to be reminded of the "total Gospel" (Col. 1:18 and 3:17). We are admonished to do everything in the name of Christ. In contrast the Social Gospel reduces the Gospel to aiding the poor and needy. The Gospel includes that, but it is much more.


In 1971 BSA sponsored a group touring the Mid-East, Mount Ararat, western Turkey (including ruins of the Seven Cities), Lebanon, Egypt and Palestine. In Ephesus there were many ruins of temples dedicated to pagan gods and goddesses of ancient Greeks and Romans. It was easy to feel superior to these benighted heathen, but are not evolutionists today worshiping as worthless a god as these ancient deities? In place of Jupiter, Mercury and Venus they are worshiping time, chance, and the environment.

Day-Age Theory

In an attempt at compromising, it is claimed that the six days of creation week were long periods of time. If plants were created on the third day which happened to be 1000 years long or one million years long, how did the process of photosynthesis (so vital to growing things) take place? There are many such scientific problems with this theory.

There are also theological problems with this position. Not only is the word "day" used, which in normal usage means a 24-hour period, but there are the expressions "evening and morning" and "first day," "second day," etc. Whenever the word "day" is used with a number (1480 times in the Old Testament), it always means a normal-length day. In Genesis 1:14 we read that the sun, moon, and stars were created to distinguish between "days, seasons, and years," with day denoting a time period less than a season or year. In Exodus 20:11 is God's command that the Jews were to work six days and rest on the seventh — as God had created on six days and rested on the seventh. In Psalm 90:4 and II Peter 3:8 we read that a day is with the Lord as a thousand years, not that it is a thousand years.

The Gap Theory

The gap theory also has led to compromise and, to a certain extent, this position is identified with Fundamentalism. In Genesis 1:2 we read that the "earth was without form and void" which, it is claimed, is a reference to a previously created world which was destroyed. The expression in Isaiah 45:18 that the Lord did not create the earth to be vain or void, is used by some to indicate that something less than good was destroyed. This leads to the concept of a pre-world in which angels lived and, when some of them sinned and became devils, this pre-world was destroyed. After this, God created our present universe within a six-day period. Into this gap, or pre-world, are thrown the millions of years needed by evolutionists, and the prehistoric monsters and prehistoric people. This leads to accepting both creation and evolution, if opposites can be accepted at one and the same time. This position has been espoused by Dr. Arthur Custance, a Canadian anthropologist, in his scholarly work Without Form and Void.47 In modern times revival of this theory started in 1830 when Chalmers included it in the Scofield Bible, a version used extensively by Fundamentalists.

This theory has been discredited by well-known scientists like Dr. Henry Morris, Dr. John Whitcomb, and others. Scientifically there is no need for such a position and theologically it is altogether unsound. When God finished His creation, He pronounced everything as "very good," meaning that it was perfect (Gen. 1:31).

Four Creation Accounts

At a pastoral seminar held at Concordia College in Portland, Oregon in 1964 there was a study on creation. Dr. John Klotz (then professor at LCMS Senior College, Fort Wayne, Indiana) presented excellent insights for the creation. But Dr. Alfred von Rohr Sauer (professor at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis) maintained that Genesis (chapter one) presents one creation account, Genesis (chapter two) presents another, Job (chapter 38) presents a third, and Psalm 104 still another. Psalm 104 is definitely poetry, and Job 38 is poetic; thus, the two Genesis accounts may also be regarded as poetry, it is claimed. They may be allegory rather than factual, according to this scheme. In Genesis 1:15 animals were created before man, but in Genesis 2:19 it appears they were created after man. This is claimed to be a contradiction, but the pluperfect in Genesis 2:19 is overlooked. Psalm 104 is a Preservation Psalm, in present tense, while Job 38 records God's whirlwind talk with Job. It was not intended to be a creation account, though it mentions creative acts.

Harold Roellig and "The God Who Cares"

Harold Roellig graduated from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis and then obtained a doctorate. His mentor was G.G. Simpson, paleontologist and leading evolutionist of his time. Roellig is author of The God Who Cares,48 in which he espouses a flexible morality and criticizes Luther for placing the "way of life" under the Ten Commandments. He represents one type of opposition to creationists in the churches.

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