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Clergy Letter Project Founder Misrepresents Creationists

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on February 9, 2013

Clergy Letter Project founder inaugurates his “no name-calling” policy by misrepresenting creationists.

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Invoking the name of Darwin who “gave life to the modern theory of evolution” and President Obama for his inaugural declarations that “We cannot mistake absolutism for principle . . . or treat name-calling as reasoned debate,” Clergy Letter Project founder Michael Zimmerman opened his “reasoned debate” with falsehoods. But are we guilty of “name-calling” by pointing out when someone misrepresents what we say?

It really wouldn’t matter so much if Zimmerman’s falsehoods merely impugned creationists. The problem is that he misrepresents what God’s Word says about salvation and about the only way to God. Zimmerman writes:

These preachers were (and, unfortunately, still are) asserting that if you “believe in evolution,” you're going to hell. . . .
They were (and, unfortunately, still are) asserting that Christian religious leaders, in particular, who were fully comfortable with evolutionary theory can't be “true” Christians.

Since he later mentions the Creation Museum—which he falsely calls a “theme park”—and Answers in Genesis, and its founder Ken Ham, it is clear he is including us in this condemnation. Yet, as Dr. Terry Mortenson, historian of geology and theologian at Answers in Genesis, remarked, “No one at Answers in Genesis or the Institute for Creation Research or the Creation Research Society or other leading creationist organization says anything like Zimmerman claims here. Furthermore, any creationists who might think this are misguided and very uninformed.”

The Word of God is clear that God's grace available through faith in Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Son of God, is the only way to be reconciled to God. The Bible is also clear that genuine faith in Christ’s shed blood is both necessary and sufficient for salvation. We have never even suggested that the Bible says salvation requires faith in “Christ-plus-six-literal-creation-days-and-a-young-earth.”

While these Christians may indeed believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord, their acceptance of evolution and/or millions of years undermines the reliability and authority of the Word of God that gives them the gospel that they believe.

In fact, we have repeatedly said that many truly born-again Christians do believe in evolution, but that in doing so they are terribly inconsistent. They believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, His miracles, His atoning sacrifice for sin, and His bodily resurrection, even though the scientific majority rejects all of this as contrary to science and rational thought.  But they reject all or much of the literal truth of Genesis chapters 1–11 because the scientific majority says those chapters are myth. So, we maintain, while these Christians may indeed believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord, their acceptance of evolution and/or millions of years undermines the reliability and authority of the Word of God that gives them the gospel that they believe.

Zimmerman, an atheist ironically, founded the Clergy Letter Project to gather religious leaders’ support for teaching evolution in the public schools. Participants include leaders of Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, and Unitarian Universalist groups. Zimmerman writes:

Each of these [clergy] letters, well-grounded from the core of their respective faith, urges that evolution be taught as a central component of public school science education.

Creationists are routinely attacked for asking public schools to permit open discussion of the controversial and assumption-based aspects of evolutionary science. We are told that our religious beliefs—which we are not trying to present in the public school classrooms—have no place in public education. Yet Zimmerman openly asks religious leaders to encourage the teaching of evolution on the basis of their religious faith. They are clearly trying to influence public science education on the basis of their own religious beliefs. Would we be guilty of name-calling if we point out the rather obvious hypocrisy of this program?

Zimmerman’s other brainchild is Evolution Weekend, which will be celebrated this weekend by many religious groups who espouse evolutionary dogma. Dogma is a set of principles believed to be true on the basis of an authority. Christian creationists accept a dogma based on the authority of God’s Word. Those groups celebrating Evolution Weekend, whether Christian or not, are espousing a different dogma. Or are we guilty of name-calling if we point out that evolution is a belief based on the authority of man’s fallible ideas instead of God’s Word?

Zimmerman says that participants in Evolution Weekend will be having a “reasoned debate” with “no name-calling” in order to “promote a deeper understanding of science by deeply religious individuals.” Yet he roundly condemns Christian creationists, like us, who are busy promoting a deeper understanding of science and the Bible. After all, the scientific method involves drawing conclusions based on testable, repeatable observations and experiments. Historical science deals with our origins. Because there is no possibility of actually making observations in the past or accurately re-creating past conditions in a present-day laboratory, conclusions about origins are necessarily based on what a person believes about the unobservable past and what he allows as a possible explanation of what in the past caused the physical evidence he sees in the present. We, as creationists, base our beliefs about the past on the authority of God’s eyewitness account as presented in the Bible. We encourage children and adults to discern the difference between experimental science and historical science.

Zimmerman demands creationists “stop attacking science in the name of religion,” but creationists demanding scientific discernment is not attacking science. Perhaps encouraging discernment is attacking “what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Timothy 6:20), however, because we do point out that there is a vast difference between what scientists truly know and what evolutionary scientists only assume. Is it name-calling to point out the difference between actual scientific knowledge and an assumption?

Zimmerman also writes that creationists like Ken Ham are “opposed to reconciliation.” And if “reconciliation” means surrendering the authority of God’s Word for man’s fallible opinions, then yes, there will be no reconciliation, no matter how many groups gather for Evolution Weekend. Or is it name-calling to point out that we trust what our holy and omniscient God says above what sinful, finite human beings think? And before Zimmerman complains, “sinful” and “finite” are truthfully descriptive of us all, so this is not name-calling either.

Finally, Zimmerman condemns those “like Ham, who demand that their religion should trump all other religions.” By what standard should we judge the right-ness of a religion? The Word of God is the only standard by which we can judge. The history in God’s Word explains what we see in geology (by telling us about the global Flood) and in biology (in which we see that organisms do indeed reproduce after their kinds). Moreover, Jesus Christ, who by His Resurrection proved His deity (Romans 1:4), declared God’s Word to be true (John 17:17). And Jesus Christ also said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). His close disciple, Peter, said “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). And Paul, one-time persecutor of the Christian church, said, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth” (1 Timothy 2:5–7).

No “reasoned debate” with those who deny the truth of God’s Word will lead us to abandon the fact that Jesus Christ is the author of our salvation (Hebrews 5:9) and offers through unmerited grace the only way to God. Is this absolutism? Yes. And with no apologies.

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