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Originally published in Creation 17, no 3 (June 1995): 16-18.
When will the Church wake up that many church leaders are “stealing” God’s words from the people—and thus are weakening and destroying much of the Church?
Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that steal my words every one from his neighbour. (Jeremiah 23:30 (KJV)).
Imagine if the following message were preached in a church:
People try to tell us that Adam had a perfect relationship with God until he sinned, and all we need to do is repent and accept Jesus in order to restore that original relationship. But perfection like this never existed. There never was such a world. Trying to return to it, either in reality or spirituality, is a delusion. Unfortunately it is still central to much evangelical preaching.
Surely no one would preach a message like this—it destroys the foundation of the Gospel! This message is saying there never was a paradise destroyed by sin, so this paradise cannot be restored—this would be taking away from people God’s message of original sin and the consummation to come. This would destroy the Church!
But the above message is a direct quote from the Rev. Dr Tom Ambrose, an ordained clergyman in the Anglican (Church of England—Episcopal) Church. Dr Ambrose is Director of Communications for the diocese of Ely in England, and he wrote this in an article called “Just a pile of old bones?” in The Church of England Newspaper, Friday October 21, 1994.
Dr Ambrose commenced the article: “When will the Church really ‘come clean’ about evolution? Recent reports of the discovery of one more ‘Missing Link’ between Homo sapiens and the higher primates forces everyone to face up to a question which some Christians have been ducking for the last 100 years.”
And what has the Church been ducking? This clergyman, like many church leaders, accepts evolution as fact, and tells people the Church needs to wake up to the consequences of adding evolutionary ideas to the Bible. Every Christian needs to read carefully what he has to say, as he is really totally consistent. In other words, he is correct about what it means for a Christian to believe in evolution. This is what he says:
Once we admit we share a common ancestry with other animals, certain consequences follow. Fossils are the remains of creatures that lived and died for over a billion years before Homo sapiens evolved. Death is as old as life itself by all but a split second. Can it therefore be God's punishment for sin?
The fossil record demonstrates that some form of evil has existed throughout time. On the large scale it is evident in natural disasters. The destruction of creatures by flood, ice age, desert and earthquake has happened countless times.
On the individual scale there is ample evidence of painful, crippling disease and the activity of parasites. We see that living things have suffered in dying, with arthritis, a tumour, or simply being eaten by other creatures.
From the dawn of time, the possibility of life and death, good and evil, have always existed. At no point is there any discontinuity; there was never a time when death appeared, or a moment when the evil changed the nature of the universe. God made the world as it is, with evolution as the instrument of change and diversity ... God's answer is not a return to a past where there was no death. Such a world never existed. His answer is not the fixing of a mechanism which was broken by sin . . . . Resurrection is not “restoration.” It points in diametrically the opposite direction.
We cannot describe our salvation as a restoration of something that is past. We may think that we long to return to a garden of Eden. Of course, this is a message which is still very frequently preached.
This man is not concerned about ‘stealing’ away the plain message of Scripture that man's sin (rebellion against a Holy God) brought the death and suffering we see today (Romans 8:20–22), and that because of Christ's death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20–22), there is going to be a restoration of all things (Acts 3:21), when death and the curse will be removed (Revelation 21:4; 22:3).
A lot of Christians are theistic evolutionists (that is, they believe that God used the evolutionary process to ‘create’ life). Many of these nevertheless accept the message of man's fall and salvation as outlined in the paragraph above. However, Dr Ambrose, as a Christian evolutionist, in what he has written has pointed out the utter inconsistency of such a position.
The Church does need to ‘come clean about evolution'! The Church needs to wake up to the fact that by accepting evolution, Christians must accept exactly what Dr Ambrose has stated if they are to be consistent. When one believes the millions of years of evolution (or ‘progressive creation’/Rossism), one has to accept that the fossil record, with its billions of dead things, diseased bones, suffering and cruelty, existed before Adam's sin. One has to accept there never was a paradise, or a literal Fall, and therefore there will never be a future paradise—just as Dr Ambrose pointed out.
At the end of his article, Dr Ambrose accused those who believe in a literal Genesis of causing our children to be‘... out of touch with the real world. They would rightly point out that if we cannot accept the obvious truths of science, why should they listen to Christians when they speak about the hidden truth of God?’
In my travels across the world, speaking to hundreds of thousands of people, I have found over and over that people, particularly students at schools, colleges and universities, say that because of evolution the Bible must be wrong. They therefore reject the message of salvation. I have found evolution to be one of the biggest stumbling blocks stopping non-Christians from listening to the claims of the Bible.
At one university I spoke at in Scotland, the leader of the Christian Union group said that when they had a panel to let non-Christians ask them questions about Christianity, the question of evolution soon came up. This leader said evolution is used by non-Christian students as justification for not believing the Bible.
I have heard similar statements by students in city after city. I have also heard the testimony of numerous people who came to Christ after being shown that evolution was not a scientific fact but a blind faith belief.
One pastor in Ohio told me that Dr Hugh Ross (a‘progressive creationist’ who believes in the‘big bang', billions of years, death and disease before Adam, a race of‘soulless’ hominids before Adam and Eve), gave a public lecture at the university where this pastor is involved in witnessing to the students. The pastor was distraught that the non-Christians walked away comfortable that they could go on believing evolution, and many of the Christians walked away questioning their faith.
Once the Church‘steals away’ God's words, and replaces them with man's theories, it is doing what Jeremiah told the people when he said,‘Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord' (Jeremiah 23:1 (KJV)). He continues in verse 36,‘. . . for ye have perverted the words of the living God, of the Lord of hosts our God'.
This‘stealing away’ has led to one of the biggest problems in our churches today—accepting the theories of men (like evolution), and not teaching authoritatively the Word of God. Christians by and large don't know how to defend their faith and doctrines, and thus are like children, 'tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine' (Ephesians 4:14).
As a result of not knowing or understanding the Word of God, many don't recognize when they are taught a watered-down Gospel, so entertainment becomes the priority in their Christian and church life. Others, because they consciously or unconsciously know that something is missing from their life (their Christianity seems to be dead), become very experiential in their faith, and so subjective experience, not the clear Word of God, becomes the judge of truth.
From my experience over the past 20 years in the creation ministry, I believe that because most churches have not taught the foundational importance of the Book of Genesis, and have allowed evolutionary ideas, people aren't sure they can trust the Bible. When confronted by skeptics, they don't know what to say. There is a deadness in their life. One man said,‘My Christianity was just floating out there until you helped me understand how all of the Bible is founded in the first 11 chapters of Genesis, and that I can logically defend my faith. I never understood that evolution was really a religion'.
The Bible teaches that in the last days, Satan will do things that could deceive even the very elect (Matthew 24:24). How could that happen? Unless they have been taught and understand that God's Word is the absolute authority, and is to be the judge of truth, because it is truth, they could easily be led astray by all sorts of happenings and experiences.
It doesn't matter what one experiences or sees, if it does not fit with Scripture, then it must not be pursued by Christians.
As Jeremiah stated, 'Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?' (Jeremiah 23:29 (KJV)). Remember, when Jesus was asked about divorce in Matthew 19:3 (KJV), He answered '... Have ye not read ...?' Jesus Christ Himself quoted the authority of the Word when defending marriage. When Christ was tempted by the Devil as recorded in Matthew 4, He answered this way, 'It is written . . .' (4:4); 'It is written again . . .' (4:7); '. . . for it is written' (4:10).
It is fascinating to go through the Bible and list statements like “It is written,” “as the prophets have spoken,” “have ye not read?” etc.
Martin Luther, that great theologian who started the Reformation, put it this way:
I have often said that whoever would study Holy Scripture should be sure to see to it that he stays with the simple words as long as he can and by no means departs from them unless an article of faith compels him to understand them differently. For of this we must be certain: no simpler speech has been heard on earth than what God has spoken.1
Commenting on the days of creation, Luther stated the following:
When Moses writes that God created heaven and earth and whatever is in them in six days, then let this period continue to have been six days, and do not venture to devise any comment according to which six days were one day. But if you cannot understand how this could have been done in six days, then grant the Holy Spirit the honor of being more learned than you are. For you are to deal with Scripture in such a way that you bear in mind that God Himself says what is written. But since God is speaking, it is not fitting for you wantonly to turn His Word in the direction you wish to go.2