Dennis Sewell has written an interesting and incisive article that presents the argument that Darwin’s ideas have lead to great atrocities and violence. Here is the article on Times online in the UK.
Here is an important section:
In America, where Darwin’s writings on morality and race have come under particularly intense critical scrutiny because of the enduring creationist debate, he has been accused of fostering moral nihilism and scientific racism, and even of promoting an ethic that found its ultimate expression in the Holocaust. Most startling of all, a connection has now been drawn between Darwin’s theories and a rash of school shootings. In April, 1,000 people gathered at sunset in Littleton, Colorado, to commemorate the victims of the Columbine high school massacre, 10 years on. Darrell Scott, whose daughter Rachel was the first of the 13 children to be murdered, and whose son Craig narrowly escaped being shot, cannot understand why so little attention has been paid to the motivation of the killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, and their interest in Charles Darwin’s ideas. “Harris wore a ‘Natural Selection’ T-shirt on the day of the killings. They made remarks on video about helping out the process of natural selection by eliminating the weak. They also professed that they had evolved to a higher level than their classmates. I was amazed at the frequent references to evolution, and that the press completely ignored that aspect of the tapes.”
Much of the evidence remains sealed under a court order issued to minimise the risk of copycat killings, but from those documents that are in the public domain, it is clear that Eric Harris fantasised about putting everyone into a violent computer game that only the fittest could survive. And, like Darwin himself, he noted how vaccination might be interfering with nature’s weeding process. In his rantings Harris said he wished there were no vaccines, or even warning labels on dangerous goods, “and let natural selection take its course. All the fat, ugly, retarded, crippled dumbass, stupid f***heads in the world would die… Maybe then the human race can actually be proud of itself”.
As the attorney for the families of six of the students killed at Columbine, the Denver lawyer Barry Arrington has come across more in a similar vein. “I read through every single page of Eric Harris’s journals; I listened to all of the audio tapes and watched the videotapes… It became evident to me that Harris consciously saw his actions as logically arising from what he had learnt about evolution. Darwinism served as his personal intellectual rationale for what he did. There cannot be the slightest doubt that Harris was a worshipper of Darwin and saw himself as acting on Darwinian principles.”
In 2007, detectives following up a tip-off about a planned school shooting in Pennsylvania discovered that their suspect often logged on to a social networking site called Natural Selection’s Army and a number of related chatrooms that were later tagged by the media as the “cyber school for killers”. These sites were quickly shut down by their service providers, but today “Natural Selection” is the name of a popular computer game in which competing teams attempt to annihilate one another — a sign that Darwin’s term is still associated by many teenagers with sudden and extreme violence.
“Natural Selection” T-shirts have proved a popular line through web-based outlets, and it seems that the Columbine killers have spawned a gruesome personality cult — there is even a computer game in which players adopt the roles of Harris and Klebold, which features original CCTV footage of the killings.
Among those reported to have frequented the original Natural Selection’s Army website was an 18-year-old Finnish student, Pekka-Eric Auvinen. On November 7, 2007, in Tuusula, Finland, Auvinen forced his head teacher to kneel down in front of him before he shot her with his pistol. He slaughtered a further seven victims before turning the gun on himself. Some of the Jokela high school students afterwards described the way Auvinen prowled through the building pointing his gun at people’s heads. Sometimes he would squeeze the trigger and kill them; sometimes, after looking long and hard through the sights, he would suddenly turn away and let his terrified target go free. One witness said he seemed to be choosing his victims at random, but in fact he was making a very deliberate selection. He was trying to weed out the “unfit”.
Before he embarked on his shooting spree, Auvinen posted a lengthy apologia on the internet. Styling himself a “social Darwinist”, he said that natural selection appeared not to be working any more — had maybe even gone into reverse. He had noticed that “stupid, weak-minded people reproduce faster than intelligent, strong-minded ones”. The gene pool was sure to deteriorate if society continued to guarantee the survival of the second-rate. He had pondered what to do about this problem. He understood that life was just a meaningless coincidence, the outcome of a long series of random mutations, so there might not be much point in doing anything at all. But eventually he had decided he would do his bit by becoming a natural selector, aping the pitiless indifference of nature.
Auvinen left a special plea for his motivation to be taken seriously and for the world not merely to write him off as a psychopath, or to blame cult movies, computer games, television or heavy metal music, before concluding: “No mercy for the scum of the Earth! Humanity is overrated. It’s time to put natural selection and survival of the fittest back on track.”
Darwin is often held up as a hero of the modern age, who releases us from many aspects of ethics and morality and in a postmodern way firmly establishes individual/community/cultural relativism. The freedom from authoritative ethics given by a divine creator also inevitably leads to a nihilistic lack of purpose and reason. Eugenics and Nazi Germany are the direct descendants of Darwin, yet little of the ethical implications of Darwinian evolution (one’s that Darwin himself reached) are taught to our students, but they are simply allowed to reach those conclusions on their own. Yet many churches in mainline denominations celebrate Darwin on an annual basis during evolution weekend. They think themselves enlightened, educated and progressive, yet the reality is that they are teaching a philosophy whose implications are eugenics, violence, and death. Thinking themselves wise, they have become foolish and exchanged the life-giving objectively true message of the gospel for a morally bankrupt, ethically depraved false philosophy leading their disciples down the wide road of destruction.
Presbyweb linked to this story about a particular Presbyterian Church that is engaged in a fascinating new ministry. They are doing a service for dogs and their owners. It is certainly an interesting gimmick, and I as a dog lover and owner of three dogs myself was intrigued.
What was most revealing about this particular church and pastor was this section of the article:
Before the first Canines at Covenant service last Sunday, Eggebeen said many Christians love their pets as much as human family members and grieve just as deeply when they suffer – but churches have been slow to recognize that love as the work of God.
"The Bible says of God only two things in terms of an ‘is’: That God is light and God is love. And wherever there’s love, there’s God in some fashion," said Eggebeen, himself a dog lover. "And when we love a dog and a dog loves us, that’s a part of God and God is a part of that. So we honor that."
First I would correct him about the “is”…does it not repeatedly say that God is holy and that God is righteous? But setting that aside, his statement about God is love, completely misses the point. Somehow he has interpreted this in some kind of nonsensical pan/en/theistic way to mean the reciprocal of the statement, namely that “love is God”, thereby making a logical fallacy. Clearly when the apostle John speaks of God being love, he is speaking of an attribute of a personal God. Yet this particular pastor has reinterpreted this to mean that when someone experiences some kind of warm (possibly fleeting) feeling of love, then God must somehow be present. Maybe this pastor will soon be holding a blessing for cash and currency, because we have all probably known people who dearly love money? His logic would then have us all experiencing God whenever we have some warm feeling that we attribute as love. My wife loves ice cream (as many do), so I wonder if he’ll be starting a Ben and Jerry’s service soon?
Many months back I received a request to complete a Presbyterian Church USA survey. Not being a person who likes doing surveys, I ignored it. But as I was hounded to complete the survey, I finally gave in and completed it. You can find the results of the survey here.
The results of one question is quite revealing, especially given the severe decline in the denomination.
The question asked if you strongly agree, agree, disagree or strongly disagree with the statement that “only followers of Jesus Christ can be saved”.
39% of members either agreed or strongly agreed.
45% of elders either agreed or strongly agreed.
35% of clergy agreed or strongly agreed.
22% of specialized clergy (clergy not working in a church) either strongly agreed or agreed.
Yet, in response to the severe decline, no one has connected these two statistics? Why? I would speculate that those who are in leadership on these issues are either in agreement with the majority or do not want to face the fact that most of the denomination has abandoned clear biblical revelation on this issue.
Slightly above one third of clergy agreed or strongly agreed (they do not make available a detailed breakdown on this statistic) that only followers of Jesus can be saved and less than one fourth of specialized clergy (who often have the strongest voice in national leadership) strongly agreed or agreed. Considering the strong possibility that those who only agree and did not strongly agree still hold out at least a strong possibility for salvation outside of Jesus Christ or hold a soft inclusivist position, this should be held up as the strongest evidence for severe decline. For what is the impetus for evangelism when you believe that salvation is available outside of Jesus Christ? For clergy and specialized clergy the strongest incentive for “church growth or maintenance of numbers” is job security. My hunch is that once you have discarded eternal destination, the incentive for conversion shifts to self-preservation.
Augustine once wrote that,”…God provides the means and arranges circumstances that will lead the elect to convert to Christ.” Conversion is an absolute foundational aspect of a basic Christian faith. Since we are born with a sinful nature and deserve eternal judgment we must receive a new spiritual nature (we must be born again) and be united with Christ to receive eternal life. We must be born again, repenting and receiving by faith, the grace of God in Jesus Christ, trusting in his saving work on the cross and in the historical reality of the physical resurrection. Paul clearly and firmly proclaims to the church at Rome, that our justification (being proclaimed righteous in God’s eyes) is only possible if we have an inner belief in Christ’s resurrection (Rom 10:9-10; 3:23-25). This basic understanding of the scriptures has been severely undermined by the entrance of pluralism and inclusivism, which have no scriptural basis whatsoever. Without a recovery of the gospel of salvation, whatever “growth” occurs will in reality be no growth at all.
The gathering of Presbyterian women, began with a presentation of a panentheist. Cynthia Rigby wrote an article in 1996 in Theology Today titled, Free to Be Human: Limits, Possibilities and the Sovereignty of God. In that article she even claimed that “God cannot choose to become human” in reference to the freedom of God, denying the virgin birth of Christ and the incarnation. She also writes “in the panentheistic model proposed here, God is related to the world not because God chose to be but because to be related to the world is who God is, and the sovereign God is perfectly free to be who God is.” So it is with continued sadness that we find Dr. Rigby “kicking off” this major gathering of Presbyterian Women, and doing so “celebrating Calvin’s birthday.” Here is a revealing portion of this report on the presentation:
For Calvin, there were two major truths that are irreconcilable: how does God hold the all of creation in God’s hand while also being the shepherd who goes after the lone sheep?
“God is all in all, and calls us one by one,” Rigby said.
That gap of God being everything and caring for the individual creates a tension, and that tension is where Calvin often worked, Rigby said. In looking at God’s sovereignty, we are both challenged and assured. We realize that we are not God, and that God has to do with everything.
Ms. Rigby answers her own question in her 1996 Theology Today article. She believes that the solution is that all of the universe is ‘in God” or part of God. And in a fascinating twisting of Paul’s statement that comes from 1Corinthians 15, she alludes to her panentheistic worldview. She takes a verse out of the chapter that defends the physical bodily resurrection, the sovereignty of the God the Father, and Christ’s subordination at the end, and twists it to mean that creation is a part of God. This kind of nonsense is reprehensible, for a teacher of theology. Instead of taking the opportunity to celebrate Calvin’s birthday with a speaker whose worldview resembles Calvin’s, rather Presbyterian Women begin their gathering by twisting Calvin’s biblical views of the sovereignty of God into panentheistic, heretical nonsense. Is anyone surprised?
“Biblical spirituality and our contemporary spirituality are not two variations on the same theme. They are stark alternatives to each other. In the one, God reaches down in grace; in the other the sinner reaches up (or in) in self-sufficiency. These spiritualities belong in different worlds, one moral in its fabric and the other psychological. One thinks in terms of salvation, the other in healing. One results in holiness, the other looks for wholeness. In the one, God’s sovereignty is seen in the establishment of what is spiritual; in the other, a human-seized sovereignty is at work to create its own spirituality. Between these two kinds of spirituality there can be no accord, no peace, no cooperation. The one excludes the other. This is the message we have heard from the apostles. This is the message that was recovered at the time of the Reformation. And this is the message that should be resounding in the church today.” David Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World, pp.177-178
I am beginning a new series on the different religion that is growing and becoming more vocal throughout much of the church today. It might be because of the increase in internet use, but today most Christians are exposed to a greater level to alternative views of “spirituality” that sounds Christian, but is opposed to Christianity at every point. It is what David Wells refers to as a spirituality from below. In subsequent blog entries I will be addressing issues of leadership in my own denomination that is really a spirituality from below and the stark difference this is to historic Reformed Protestantism.
The great “myth” of this spirituality is the story of Indian origin of the blind men and the elephant. The basic idea of the story is that reality can be viewed differently depending on one’s perspective and what seems to be absolute truth is really only part of the greater “truth”. No one has a complete picture of reality, and so we must be “tolerant” of all views of reality, because they probably have some understanding that we need to hear.
There are certain assumptions of the myth and the view of spirituality from below that must be addressed initially. First, there is a presumption that there is no one that is greater than we are (humans) that reveals anything about reality that we need to know, and if there is, that person is so different from us that we cannot understand. If there were a revelation from God, then the spirituality from below would disintegrate. Secondly, there is an assumption that we “know” that reality is really an elephant and that we are all just hunting around. This is ultimately self-refuting. For the story requires a narrator who knows more than all the blind men that there is more to reality than they can conceive. So too, in a spirituality from below.
True Reformation part 5a: Christ Crucified – deeply rooted in the substitutionary atonement of Jesus
We sing the praise of Him who died,
Of Him who died upon the cross,
The sinner’s hope let all deride.
For this we count the world but loss.
Inscribed upon the cross we see
In shining letters “God is love.”
He bears our sins upon the tree,
He brings us mercy from above.
The cross! It takes our guilt away;
It holds the fainting spirit up;
It cheers with hope the gloomy day
And sweetens ev’ry bitter cup.
It makes the coward spirit brave
And nerves the feeble arm for fight;
It takes the terror from the grave
And gilds the bed of death with light;
The balm of life, the cure of woe,
The measure and the pledge of love,
The sinner’s refuge here below,
The angels’ theme in heav’n above.
To Christ, who won for sinners grace
By bitter grief and anguish sore,
Be praise from all the ransomed race
Forever and forevermore
The final point I would like to highlight on the elements of true reformation is a deep and abiding passion for the Cross of Christ. I will look at this central aspect of reformation more thoroughly in the next several entries.
In recent decades it has become quite fashionable by evangelicals to ignore the substitutionary atonement of Jesus (focusing on more pragmatic applicable thoughts), while many mainline progressive theologians and many Emergents openly mock the belief as “child abuse”.
At the heart of true reformation is an abiding and deeply growing understanding, appreciation, and even passion for the Cross of Christ. Reformation requires a surrender to the full meaning of the cross of Christ—to know Christ and him crucified. In the gospel of Mark, at the pinnacle of his earthly ministry, having withdrawn with his apostles to the northern district around Caesarea Philippi, he asked them who they thought he was. After Peter said that he was God’s Messiah, immediately Jesus “…began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this” (Mark 8:31-32) and later he said, “45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
Myth: It has been stated by many progressives that the theme of substitutionary atonement was minor or even non-existent until St. Anselm (A.D. 1000), but this is a misrepresentation of the truth. The substitutionary atonement can be seen throughout the writings of the early church. Here is a tiny sampling: Clement of Rome wrote, “Because of the love which he felt for us, Jesus Christ our Lord gave his blood for us by the will of God, his body for our bodies, and his soul for our souls.” Ignatius wrote, “All these sufferings, assuredly, he underwent for our sake, that we might be saved.” In the Epistle to Diognetus we read, “God gave up his own Son as a ransom for us—the holy one for the unjust, the innocent for the guilty, the righteous one for the unrighteous, the incorruptible for the corruptible, the immortal for the mortal. For what else could cover our sins except his righteousness? …O sweet exchange!” Augustine later wrote, “Christ bore for our sakes sin in the sense of death as brought on human nature by sin. This is what hung on the tree… Thus was death condemned that its reign might cease, and accursed that it might be destroyed…When the Father was angry with us, he looked upon the death of his Son for us and was propitiated toward us.” In much of the writings of the early centuries of the church the substitutionary atonement is often assumed as a foundational identifier for believers.
The substitutionary atonement of Christ is clearly and deeply foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament, and was at the heart of God’s covenant with his people. I will look at that in my next posting.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
As St. Augustine put it 1500 years ago, “when regard for truth has been broken down or even slightly weakened, all things will remain doubtful.”
I was fascinated to read the Moderator of the PCUSA, Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow’s comments today posted on Presbyweb, following the vote of the Presbyteries not to ratify the changes pushed forward by the General Assembly, which would have made it even easier for this once great, soon to be obscure denomination, to ignore clear unambiguous biblical ethics and ordain openly unrepentant homosexuals to the offices of elders and deacons. Instead of affirming the decision of the Presbyteries and appealing to progressive congregations not to continuously put forth divisive, unbiblical and clearly heretical overtures, he instead makes this statement:
I think about our hopes for humanity – for those close to us, those who oppose us, those we love, those we call stranger, and those we may never meet face-to-face. Do we really want them to grow into who God intends, or do we want them to grow into who we think they should be? Too often, we want to strictly define and control God for the other, rather than trust that we can each listen to God well enough to be guided and molded into God’s vision and reality here on Earth.
Sometimes, to allow others to grow into whom God intends, we have to allow room for them to discover God on their own – even at the risk of them making choices we would not make. As a parent and pastor, I find this difficult because I want to guide my children and the community I serve in a particular direction.
His statement has a certain pious sound. But what precisely might be meant by, “…too often, we want to strictly define and control God for the other, rather than trust that we can each listen to God well enough to be guided and molded into God’s vision and reality here on earth”? So let me see if I understand things. The Presbyteries have once again affirmed as essential that those ordained to ministry must abide by the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage of a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness. In response to this, the moderator calls for us not to “define & control God for the other”. In essence he is affirming that fidelity in marriage as defined between one man and one woman or chastity in singleness is not an essential, and by defining it as such, we are defining and controlling God for the other.
There are few ethical positions in scripture that are more clear than these basic truths on marriage. Yet, moderator Reyes-Chow reveals his bias on the issue by dishonoring the re-affirmation of the Presbyteries. His statement is even more troubling than this. What other essential of the faith might Rev. Reyes-Chow view as strictly defining and controlling God for the other? By definition an essential of the faith is strictly defining what we believe to be true about God and reality. To say that we believe that Jesus rose physically and bodily from the dead and that the tomb was empty is an essential of the faith and is strictly defining what we believe to be an absolute historically verifiable objective fact. I know that even this is much too narrow for many ordained leaders in this denomination, but to deny this is to deny the faith and to deny Jesus Christ. The moderators statement, which is made with no caveats, clearly indicates that to state something as essential is to strictly define and control God for others. It might be best to think of the PCUSA now as the church of the non-essential middle-way.