by Walter and Valeria Lang
To explain what we mean by creation evangelism, permit us to relate several experiences. In 1971 members of a Bible-Science tour group had traveled to London, Zurich, Istanbul, Ankara, Erzurum, Doughabayazit, Ankara, and the seven cities described in Revelation, Chapters 2 and 3. From there the group went to Greece, Lebanon, Egypt and Palestine. Tour members were ready to return to London and New York, which required a bus ride to Tel Aviv. As the bus entered the airport, it was obvious something was wrong; security police diligently checked the Arab drivers. Then came the report that terrorists had blown up a bus that very morning. It took three hours to get through customs, and it was reported that during the wait one man had died of a heart attack. When we finally boarded our flight, we were late and our party was split up. We sat next to a Jewish girl who had spent six years in Tel Aviv; she was returning to London for surgery. Learning that we were a clergyman, she stated that she was an atheist. We contended there are agnostics, but there are no atheists, for everyone has a god whatever it may be. She asked, if there is a God, why does He permit the Jews to suffer at the hands of the Arabs? God cannot be blamed, we said, for He has provided a solution which converts troubles to blessings.
There are two laws in nature, we said. On the one hand, there is marvelous order and design, but on the other, there is continuous degeneration. Yet, even in the Old Testament, God demanded perfection (Deut. 18:13). This perfection could be restored only through the substituted atonement of Jesus Christ, God's Son. At this point the young lady was turned off, but we had been able to witness.
Later, as we were driving across the plains of Kansas with Dr. Burdick as passenger, we recounted this experience. Here was an evangelism program, we recognized, and we have been pursuing it ever since. Bible-Science has fifty Evangelism tracts available to aid in witnessing through Bible and science.
Still later, at a talk in Vancouver, British Columbia, this incident was mentioned. We were asked why we had not prayed for the Holy Spirit to immediately convert this Jewish girl. Our answer was that she would have violently resisted; time was needed for the Holy Spirit to persuade her.
While preparing a booklet on evangelism, we mentioned this incident with the Jewish girl. A conservative friend thought we should have emphasized that evil emanates from the devil and through Adam to all mankind. Yet, we know that God is in control and He could have prevented the devil from sinning and, in turn, prevented Adam and Eve from sinning. Why did God not intervene and prevent sin? We need not know the answer to this. We do know that God, in His love and mercy, has provided full salvation for all sinners.
After Job's three friends had failed to comfort him, Elihu led him to the Gospel. Then God spoke to Job in a whirlwind (Job 38-41), demonstrating how little he actually knew and convicting him of the sin of failing to submit to the loving hand of God. When Job repented, his possessions were restored two-fold.
On our Mid-East tour in 1971 we were warned that speaking about Christ in Turkey is regarded as a crime. Those Christian missionaries who disregard this law expect to spend about one-half their time in prison. Tourists who were imprisoned would not be freed for three weeks. Rev. Ben Male, retired Presbyterian pastor of Denver, found it difficult not to witness. We also asked our young guide, a university student, and our older guide, retired from the Air Force, whether evolution was taught in Turkish schools. Evading a direct answer, one replied that sensitivity training was not permitted. We asked point blank whether schools taught that the world is millions of years old and that man ascended from lower forms of life. Yes, all schools teach this, we were told. We warned that teaching of evolution would destroy also the Muslim religion. Without mentioning Christ, we laid the foundation for the Christian religion, beginning with perfection, entrance of evil, and restoration of perfection.
Three Things Necessary in Evangelism
During the course of serving in the parish ministry since 1937, this writer has used many methods of evangelism. In our opinion, three things are needed in evangelism.
I — Favorable Attention You must get favorable attention, which is often difficult, because unchurched people have built up defenses against the customary sin/grace approach.
II — Conviction of Sin Some people attempt evangelism without reference to sin, saying that people are aware they are sinners. This is not true. There can be no appreciation of salvation without recognition of sin.
III — Miraculous Power of the Gospel The true power of the Gospel is recognized only when people realize that a miracle is required to restore the perfection that was lost through sin. In Bible-Science witnessing we believe these three requirements are met. A witness that begins with conversation about extraterrestrial life, or about dinosaurs, or about radioactive dating systems, gets attention even though there may not be agreement. When it is noted that even nature is cursed because of sin (Rom. 8:18-23), people will admit human sin. And sin is not merely a matter for theology; it is something which is dealt with every day.
This leads to a discussion of the transforming power of the Gospel. Moral perfection demands a miracle. If the creation of the universe required a miracle by an eternal God, an even greater miracle is the substituted atonement of Jesus Christ, God's Son from eternity. From there the conversation can lead to the joining of our everyday tasks (including all the science disciplines) with the Gospel; thus, our total life will be guided by the Gospel.
In June of 1978 a space conference was held in Cleveland, Ohio, attended mostly by creationists. Einstein's theories on relativity (both special and general) were criticized. Herbert Dingle's criticism on relativity, as outlined in his book Science at the Crossroads,49 was studied. Because the idea of absolute space was upheld, three evolutionist scientists who nevertheless accepted the concept of absolute space were invited. Stefan Marinov came from Bulgaria where his father had been a leader in the Marxist revolution. Stefan enjoyed special privileges and he went on to become a prominent space scientist at the Observatory in Sofia. Previously he had called for a worldwide conference on absolute space in Sofia but, because this was regarded as deviation from the norm, he was imprisoned and tortured in psychiatric wards. To dispose of him and the problem, he was deported. Arriving in the United States, he joined two scientists who had taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and left there to devote full-time to research. All three spoke at this Cleveland conference.
Knowing he was a Communist, there was concern over approaching him with the Gospel. He provided an opening when he reported that the Communists of eastern Europe had killed 60 million people, one million per year. Yet, he admitted, nothing productive had been accomplished. It was pointed out to him that whereas paganism relies on force, Christianity depends on love, and this always produces superior results. He must have been touched, for then he claimed that he was both a Marxist and a member of the Greek Orthodox Church. His gods, as evidenced by his remarks, were time, chance, and the environment.
God is Someone's Imagination
In a March, 1980 visit to the BSA office, R.W. Keiper indicated that he had left Wisconsin for mission work in southern Brazil, in a nominally Catholic area. Due to the prevalence of the teaching of evolution, most of the people there believed that God was the figment of someone's imagination. He had to deal with them as with people who had never heard the Gospel. He found the Bible-Science program an invaluable aid in his work.
On a hike down the Grand Canyon trails in 1972 at the Indian Gardens campground, the BSA group met a man who had come from Lithuania as a displaced person. He boasted that he was a self-made man, even working as an architect in Anchorage, Alaska. He maintained that God is the figment of someone's imagination. Though he regarded himself as a moral man, by denying the very existence of God, he did not have a foundation for morality.
In 1975, Lang was on the Hawaiian Islands giving talks on the search for Noah's Ark. Before the evening talk, there was time for taking pictures on the beach. A conversation with a short man followed and it was learned he was an architect from New York City who had been on the island of Maui for a month. He revealed that he was there to study with a guru to learn more of this Oriental religion. There was time and opportunity to outline the whole creation philosophy, which included the position that the Hawaiian Islands are merely thousands of years old, not millions of years. In fact, the islands may well be the result of volcanic activity during the Noahic flood. This type of witnessing lent itself to a person such as this man.
A Confused Mormon
On one of the speaking trips through Alaska, Dr. Burdick and Walter Lang were furnished a car by Francis Stokes, a Seventh Day Adventist member who holds a prominent position with a firm controlling the oil pipeline. Flying from Boise, Idaho they were to catch a Western flight in Portland, Oregon, but the flight was delayed because of wing control problems. The passengers got off, then on, and then off again. When they arrived in Seattle, the flight to Anchorage had already departed, and it was suggested that Lang fly standby; he was even given a seat in the first-class section.
Lang's seat-mate was an engineer with a tugboat system hauling freight from West Coast cities to Alaska. He had been Baptist but, after marrying a Mormon lady, he, too, had become a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints. During the witnessing, on the basis of Bible-Science relationships, this young man realized that he was a Mormon by marriage only. Nor did he even understand Baptist teachings.
During our years in Idaho there was a considerable exposure to Mormons. They have problems regarding creation/evolution about the same as other denominations. Though, generally, Mormons consider themselves to be creationists, it is rare to find a creationist on the faculties of Brigham Young University in Utah or at their school in Rexburg, Idaho, or at the state universities in Salt Lake City and Logan, Utah where Mormons are predominant.
In creation/evolution discussions with Mormons, they become easily upset for they regard any disagreement as persecution. They are certain they have the inner light and there are no mistakes in their beliefs. But, if you can get across the hurdles of persecution complex and prophecies, there is an interest in creationism, comparable to other denominations. One prominent Mormon, Bob Salter, who was a talk-show host over a Boise station and later a Salt Lake City station, frequently invited creationists as guests on his show. He was especially interested in finding Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat. Because of him, hundreds of Mormons wrote to the Bible-Science office for creationist literature. Mount Vernon Academy in Murray, Utah is an independent school, operated by Mormons, however. Its headmaster is a creationist.
On the Bible-Science tours of Grand Canyon there have been many opportunities for witnessing. On the summer tour in 1976 preparations were made for a Christmas seminar. The two pastors at Grand Canyon Village on the south rim of the canyon were contacted for assistance. One replied that he was too busy with mission work to spend time studying the formation of Grand Canyon. The other one had no interest at all. At the Park, the official position supports the evolution view. However, park authorities have never interfered with the work of creationists. Witnessing opportunities have been many; this has been to people from Israel, Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, France, and England.
In 1976 BSA filmed a movie in the Grand Canyon. On the first trip down
a park ranger at Cottonwood campground showed interest. On the second trip,
the following week, this ranger (Bruce Adkins) brought along a friend who
worked at the pumphouse. Bruce saw no witnessing potential in a discussion
of the age of the canyon (thousands of years versus millions of years);
he thought quoting John 3:16 was the only necessary ingredient. But, he
agreed to pose as a tourist while members of the group witnessed to him.
The witnessing began with the statement that this awe-inspiring canyon did not come about through forces of evolution over a period of 26-36 million years. While there is continuous erosion, with the Colorado River eroding and carrying off one-half million tons of sand and silt each day, this did not carve the canyon.
The creationist explanation is that this region was once a low mountainous
area. Violence in the beginning stages of the Noahic flood was responsible
for the twisted and tortured rocks of the inner gorge. Jet winds driving
masses of water back and forth laid down the sediments from the inner canyon
to the rim. Either during the recessional period of the Flood, or perhaps
in a continental split (at the
time of Peleg, Gen. 10:25), this area was uplifted and cracked open, which released huge bodies of pent-up water in Colorado and Wyoming to rush violently through the crack, widening it and carving the formations which are now the Grand Canyon. Thus, this thing of beauty was, first of all, a punishment for sin. But God did not stop there; He sent His Son to redeem a wicked mankind. Thus, the Gospel aids in our understanding of the world of nature. It is hoped this provided insights for Bruce's future witnessing.
A young man went with Lang on evangelism calls one time. Most people either were not at home or did not answer the doorbell. In two hours, not one effective call had been made and the evening seemed wasted. Returning to the car, the young man voiced problems: Are there really UFOs? Is there extraterrestrial life? Do radioactive dating systems give true age-dates? Is 6000 years a reliable age for the universe? What about abortion, war and peace?
Generally, when an evangelism program is undertaken, reaction is threefold:
1. First, a creation evangelism program is beyond our understanding. Response to this is that the Gospel is beyond our understanding; if it were not a miracle, we could not be saved through it. When it is tried, it is soon learned that creation evangelism is an interesting and viable tool for even the non-scientist.
2. Second, a common reaction is that such an approach frightens people. They would be turned off by a strict creationist position. True, it is not wise to recommend the position of a pastor who told an agnostic he could join the church and they would discuss agnosticism later. Christians must stand for something; the church is not merely a social organization.
3. The third reaction is from people who have tried this approach and found it gets them in the door to have a discussion on Noah's Ark, or the veracity of dating with radioactive decay systems, or perhaps attempts to create life in a test tube. The total Gospel means making use of the Gospel in our everyday living.
Observance of an Evangelism Week has been suggested. Boards of Elders and Evangelism Committees ought to meet with a representative who will train a core of callers. These core people will lead others on visits to prospective members. To avoid distracting events, all other meetings ought to be cancelled for one week. The representative could conduct a Sunday morning Bible class session on Genesis, chapters 1-11; this will answer questions which callers may have.
On Sunday evening there should be a slide or film presentation. To ensure
a sizable group participating, a potluck dinner could be sponsored earlier.
After this, callers would go out and, hopefully, bring in people for the
evening slide presentation.
During the day (morning or afternoon) a Bible class could be conducted. Perhaps there could be another early group supper, after which callers (armed with suitable tracts) would go out. Then, there could be another video presentation. This routine could be continued throughout the week, with presentations each evening on a different topic.
Saturday would be a free day. On Sunday a report would be given, results summarized, and workers recognized.
This review of the history of creationism from the viewpoint of Bible-Science Association on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Bible-Science Newsletter50 gives testimony to the operation of a powerful God. It does not indicate that a large organization has been developed or that the Newsletter has a subscriber list of hundreds of thousands and that the Science Readers are mailed to hundreds of thousands of students and schools. This is not the case. But there have been many miracles in terms of experiences, of financial support, and of results. When Communists speak of a revolution, they mean only destruction of existing order. The revolution taking place in creation/evolution is a revolution demanded by the apostle in Romans 12:2. It means turning the world upside-down for Christ and His Gospel.
One lesson learned over the years is that people who are concerned over gaining respect in the world of science will either compromise or head in the wrong direction. We do well to heed the words of Romans 12:2 that, if we are to be transformed, we must transform. We need the confidence that if God is on our side, even with the whole world against us we shall win the victory.
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