Over the past few weeks, it seems that the whole town of Newton, Iowa has been talking about the creation/evolution controversy (thanks to some AiG supporters and others), as several letters to the editor appeared in the local paper, the Newton Daily News, about the question of origins.
The letters poured in after a November 17, 2004 commentary from a staff writer at the paper, Mandi Lamb. After she read a pro-evolution editorial by her colleague at the newspaper (which lamented the decision by a Wisconsin USA school district to allow teachers to present nonevolutionary views in its public school classrooms), Mandi Lamb agreed with the decision in Wisconsin that there are other ideas “on the origins of life and our universe.” Her defense of creation as a legitimate worldview drew a stream of letters, both pro and con, that continued for weeks.
When five liberal pastors waded in, more fuel was added to the fire. The following is the full letter submitted by these five ministers to the newspaper (which will be followed by subsequent letters to the editor).
Many Christians OK with Scientific Theory of Evolution
To the Editor:
We found Mandi Lamb’s editorial in the Nov. 17 issue of the Daily News (Evolutionism: more a faith than a science) to be both disturbing and misleading. She argues that Creationism should be taught in public schools as an alternative to the theory of evolution. (As her title suggests, perhaps she uses the strange word “evolutionism” rather than “evolution” to make it sound like a belief system rather than a true scientific theory.)
It is important to remember that there are many Christians who do not believe that creationism is “good science,” who do not have any problem with the scientific theory of evolution and who do not feel that evolution is in any way in conflict with their Christian faith. Evolution and other scientific theories (such as gravity, magnetism, electricity, etc.) originated with scientific observation and experimentation. Creationism, however, originated with the creation stories in the book of Genesis.
Yet the bible is not intended to be a science text. Instead, the creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2 teach us about God’s sovereignty over all creation; about human sin and fallen-ness; and about God’s persistent love and care for us, even when we turn away from God’s will.
Keep in mind that Christians once believed that the earth was flat, and the church once taught that the sun revolved around the earth. When scientific discoveries developed better ways of explaining the world in which we live these other ideas were discarded.
The November, 2004 issue of the National Geographic magazine includes a major article titled, “Was Darwin Wrong?”1 The first words of the article answer the question of its title: “No. The evidence for Evolution is overwhelming.” We would invite Mandi Lamb, and all those who are sympathetic to the idea of creationism, to find a copy and read it.
Rev. Michael Dack
Rev. Linda Butler
Rev. Steve Mathison-Bowie
Rev. Tiare Mathison-Bowie
Rev. Howard Vrankin
Many Christians responded with letters to the paper about the five ministers, and here are excerpts of a few of those letters to the editor:
In response to the five ministers defending the theory of evolution, while it is gratifying to see a group of ministers come together in agreement, we would expect it to be in defense of the Word of God, not in dismissal of it!
These five ministers should re-read Job 38 where God demands an answer from Job, saying “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?”
I would point out to these five that there are literally thousands of fully credentialed scientists who are creationists and it is wrong for anyone to imply that all scientists accept evolution.
And, as ministers of the very Word of God, if what National Geographic says does not line up with that Word, they should pitch it out. As ministers, the Word is their priority, indeed, their responsibility. They would do well to remember that judgment begins at the house of God (1 Peter 4). Ministers, that’s you first.
I fear these ministers, if asked “What is Truth?” would respond, “Well, my dear, truth is relative, after all.” Which leaves us with just a pack of, well, reverends in sheep’s clothing.
—Alice Pendleton, Newton
By December, more letters were pouring in, which included thoughts like these:
My concern [has been] the responsibility of those ministers to lead their congregation according to God’s word.
I cannot honestly say that publicly supporting a theory which contradicts God’s Word is the correct action for any minister to take. 1 Corinthians 5:12 tells us that people of God must hold those within the church to their actions; ministers … lead them to doubt.
God is the same yesterday, today, and forever; His word is not subject to “personal interpretation,” and it does not change with human thinking.
—Ashley Stech, Newton
From a Bible-believing pastor:
May I say that as one who has been behind a pulpit a time or two that I found their remarks a bit disconcerting and lacking spiritual and scientific substance as well. Their titles would seem to qualify them to speak on theological subjects but much of their article was devoted to educating us on the sciences.
How do they determine which stories [in the Bible] are story stories and which are not?
—David Rex, Newton
Another person defended Mandi Lamb’s editorial, writing:
While the Bible isn’t per se a science book, when it has spoken about scientific issues, it has been 100 percent.
Only in recent years has science discovered that everything we see is composed of invisible atoms. Scripture tells us in Hebrews 11:3 that the “things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”
At a time when it was believed that the earth sat on a large animal or a giant (1500 B.C.), the Bible spoke of the earth’s free float in space: “He … hangs the earth upon nothing.” (Job 26:7)
The prophet Isaiah also tells us that the earth is round: “It is he that sits upon the circle of the earth.” (Isaiah 40:22) [Note: By the way, it is simply a persistent myth, repeated by these pastors, that Christians generally believed in a flat earth. See Who Invented the Flat Earth?]
I could go on and on.
—Bob Colby, Newton
A friend of AiG expressed his firm belief:
All Christians should have a big problem with evolution. Evolution is a direct attack against God and His written word to us, the Bible. Because the Bible is God’s written word, we can be certain it is without error, … and its history, science and biology is 100 percent reliable.
National Geographic has beautiful photographs but is very biased toward evolution. If you’re into the Internet, check out the resources on answersingenesis.org. Doing so will greatly enhance your ministry.
—Jim Appleby, Newton
Of course, there were some who sided with the five pastors, and it included another columnist at the Daily News:
I suspect we could get into a long argument about the exact meaning of creationism or evolution, but my opinion is that the Christian religion is broad enough to include both opinions and I really don’t care which viewpoint you accept.
—Wendell Wendt, Daily News columnist
I marvel at fundamentalist Christians who miss the point. Christians lobby for the right (no pun intended) to present their religious message in public schools, while zealously suppressing all other viewpoints. This intolerance is witnessed at the Scopes Monkey Trials, and worse yet the Salem Witch Hunts.
—Deana Williams, Newton
Apparently Ms. Williams is unaware of the real lesson of the 1925 Scopes trial: It’s wrong to censor an opposing view in a controversial subject. For more on the Scopes trial, read our article The Scopes Trial … What’s the Big Deal?
One of the original five ministers then chimed in with:
I am one of the “five pastors.” Perhaps our fundamental/creationist friends have been operating from too narrow an interpretation of the Bible. Remember what the Church tried to do to Galileo. His telescope wasn’t lying. The rest of us Christians have adjusted.
—Howard Vrankin, Newton
This is another example of an anti-creationist who is ignorant of the history of science. For the true story on Galileo, read The Galileo Affair: History or Heroic Hagiography?
And the letters continued to pour in through December. A liberal pastor submitted the following recently:
I would like to invite my more conservative brothers and sisters to take the whole Bible seriously and thoughtfully. Pastor Rex wants colleagues to teach the stories of scripture. But which creation story shall we teach? The one in Genesis One, in which man was created after the animals and birds, with woman created virtually simultaneously? Or the one in Genesis Two, in which man was created first and woman created later, followed by animals and birds? The story we choose has huge implications for how we teach parishioners to relate to God’s creation.
—Rev. C. Eugene Bryant, Newton
For a refutation of this often-stated misunderstanding that Genesis contains two accounts of creation, read Creation Account, Times Two
A letter writer misunderstood the intent of those who wrote in favor of creation and against evolution:
Recent Letters to the Editor seem to imply that our eternal salvation depends on our understanding of a certain reading of Genesis. Let’s not be so fearful of being open to new insights into God’s on-going revealing of Himself.
Incidentally, I’d be happy to sign up with those five maligned clergymen!
—Gene Cedarholm, Newton
If you review the previous letters, however, none of the pro-Genesis letter-writers has even implied that salvation is dependent on believing in a literal, straightforward Genesis. The writers supporting creation were merely pointing out that the pastors were not being consistent with the clear teachings of the Scriptures, beginning with Genesis.
An AiG supporter responded to Rev. Eugene Bryant by observing that
There is no compatibility between evolution and the biblical account of creation. None. They are mutually exclusive propositions. …
When the church takes its own book seriously and stops cutting and pasting to suit the popular doctrines of the day, the lost take notice and take interest. I’ve seen it happen countless times. You see, they know better. They know that the story of evolution is in conflict with the biblical story of creation.
When they see that the whole Bible can be trusted, that its history is real history, and that there are answers to the false claims of evolution, they realize that there might just be something to this Jesus of Nazareth, after all.
—Aaron Gunsaulus, Newton
Mr. Gunsaulus later submitted another letter to the paper, where he made the keen observation that “the Bible is not intended to be a science text. Granted. But where it touches on geology, astronomy, biology and physics (and it touches on all of these) we should expect it to be accurate because of its source. If God can’t get geology right, how can He be trusted with eternal salvation?”
Mr. Gunsaulus continued
An interesting prejudice for five pastors to have. But then again, these are the ones who directed their readers to National Geographic instead of the Bible to search out answers to the questions of origins.
In general, the many letters to the editor that AiG read that supported the creation position were well written and not harsh in spirit at all. In most of the letters that challenged the five pastors about their beliefs in scriptural accuracy, they were simply calling the ministers back to the authority of the Word of God, as AiG attempts to do on a daily basis through this website and other outreaches.
We are aware that at least two of the letter-writers used the AiG website in helping compose their letters to the editor. Please feel free to follow their example when your local paper features a commentary or a letter to the editor in favor of evolution and its millions of years. You can use this website—with its 5,000+ free articles and its powerful search engine—to assist you in composing your response. Be ready to give an answer (1 Peter 3:15).