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Originally published in Creation 17(2):20-22, March 1995
The idea that God used evolution, and therefore that the book of Genesis needs to be reinterpreted to accommodate so-called millions of years, and to reject the worldwide Flood, is not a modern idea.
'What do you think of the idea modern theologians have proposed to harmonize the Bible with what scientists are saying about evolution?' asked a young man at a creation seminar.
'What idea is that?' I replied.
'Well, that Christians can accept evolution, because it fits right in with Genesis', was the retort.
I responded: 'Actually, this is not a new idea at all. At the time Darwin was popularizing his views about evolution, many theologians of his day were attempting to harmonize the evolution account with Genesis. However, the fascinating thing is that it was the leading humanist of the day (just like many humanists today) who pointed out that Christians can't do this if they are going to be consistent. Sometimes I think that humanists seem to understand Christianity better than many Christians!'
The idea that God used evolution, and therefore that the book of Genesis needs to be reinterpreted to accommodate so-called millions of years of Earth's history, and to reject the worldwide Flood, is not a modern idea. Many theologians have attempted such harmonizations in response to the work of people like Charles Darwin and Scottish lawyer/geologist Charles Lyell (who helped popularize the idea that it takes millions of years for sedimentary layers to form).
However, it was the leading humanist of Darwin's day, Thomas Huxley (1825-1895), who so eloquently pointed out the inconsistencies of such approaches to Scripture. Huxley, an ardent evolutionary humanist, was known as 'Darwin's bulldog', as he did more to popularize Darwin's ideas than Darwin did himself. Huxley understood Christianity much more clearly than did these compromising theologians. He used their compromise against them to help his cause in undermining Christianity.
In his essay 'Lights of the Church and Science', Huxley states, 'I am fairly at a loss to comprehend how any one, for a moment, can doubt that Christian theology must stand or fall with the historical trustworthiness of the Jewish Scriptures. The very conception of the Messiah, or Christ, is inextricably interwoven with Jewish history; the identification of Jesus of Nazareth with that Messiah rests upon the interpretation of the passages of the Hebrew Scriptures which have no evidential value unless they possess the historical character assigned to them. If the covenant with Abraham was not made; if circumcision and sacrifices were not ordained by Jahveh; if the "ten words" were not written by God's hand on the stone tables; if Abraham is more or less a mythical hero, such as Theseus; the Story of the Deluge a fiction; that of the Fall a legend; and that of the Creation the dream of a seer; if all these definite and detailed narratives of apparently real events have no more value as history than have the stories of the regal period of Rome — what is to be said about the Messianic doctrine, which is so much less clearly enunciated: And what about the authority of the writers of the books of the New Testament, who, on this theory, have not merely accepted flimsy fictions for solid truths, but have built the very foundations of Christian dogma upon legendary quicksands?'1
In other words, Huxley makes the point that if we are to believe the New Testament doctrines, we must believe as historical truth the account of Genesis. He insists that 'the universality of the Deluge is recognized, not merely as a part of the story, but as a necessary consequence of some of its details.'2 However, he goes on to insist that because of what he calls 'science', one has to give up belief in a world flood.
Huxley quotes various theological sources in which the authors attempt to harmonize the Bible with belief in such things as millions of years, and who suggest that Noah's Flood was just a local event. Concerning this idea, Huxley states, 'A Child may see the folly of it.'3 He gives a detailed account of what he sees as the absurdity of such an idea when one reads the account of the Flood event in Genesis — particularly considering what the topography of the area would have been like where this 'local flood' supposedly occurred.
Huxley was definitely out to destroy the truth of the Biblical record.He reacts gleefully when he reads an article entitled 'Noah' in the Dictionary of the Bible, written by a church dignitary, in which the 'doctrine of the universality of the Deluge is therein altogether given up', by stating that what 'I supplied him, may in some degree, have contributed towards this happy result.'
Huxley was definitely out to destroy the truth of the Biblical record. When people rejected the Bible he was happy. But when they tried to harmonize evolutionary ideas with the Bible, and reinterpret it, he vigorously attacked this position.
'I confess I soon lose my way when I try to follow those who walk delicately among "types" and allegories. A certain passion for clearness forces me to ask, bluntly, whether the writer means to say that Jesus did not believe the stories in question or that he did? When Jesus spoke, as a matter of fact, that "the Flood came and destroyed them all", did he believe that the Deluge really took place, or not? It seems to me that, as the narrative mentions Noah's wife, and his sons' wives, there is good scriptural warranty for the statement that the antediluvians married and were given in marriage: and I should have thought that their eating and drinking might be assumed by the firmest believer in the literal truth of the story. Moreover, I venture to ask what sort of value, as an illustration of God's methods of dealing with sin, has an account of an event that never happened? If no Flood swept the careless people away, how is the warning of more worth than the cry of "Wolf" when there is no wolf?'4
Huxley then gives us a lesson on New Testament theology.
He quotes Matthew 19:4-5 ('And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?'), and then comments:
'If divine authority is not here claimed for the twenty-fourth verse of the second chapter of Genesis, what is the value of language? And again, I ask, if one may play fast and loose with the story of the Fall as a "type" or "allegory," what becomes of the foundation of Pauline theology?'5
And to substantiate this, Huxley quotes 1 Corinthians 15:21, 22:
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
Huxley continues, 'If Adam may be held to be no more real a personage than Prometheus, and if the story of the Fall is merely an instructive "type," comparable to the profound Promethean mythos, what value has Paul's dialectic?'
Thus, concerning those who try to hold to New Testament doctrines that Paul and Christ teach, but reject Genesis as literal history, Huxley claims 'the melancholy fact remains, that the position they have taken up is hopelessly untenable.'
He is adamant that 'science' has proved that one cannot intelligently accept that the Genesis account of creation and the Flood can be accepted as historical truth. However, he points out that the New Testament is dependent on the truth of these events, as Paul's teaching on the doctrine of sin, Christ's teaching on the doctrine of marriage, and the warning of future judgment tied to past judgment, are based on these events as literal. He mocks those who try to harmonize evolution and millions of years with the Bible (by their giving up a literal Genesis) while still trying to hold to the doctrines of the New Testament.
What is Huxley's point? He insists that the theologians have to accept evolution and millions of years, but points out that to be consistent, they have to give up the Bible totally. Compromise does not work!
The established Church of Huxley's day gave up literal belief in the Flood. Subsequently we have seen how it has progressively abandoned other vital New Testament doctrines also.
The Church succumbed to the teachings of Darwin, propagated by Huxley, the ardent anti-Christian humanist who, in 1861, concerning a series of lectures he was giving, said, 'By next Friday evening they will all be convinced that they are monkeys.'6
Consider carefully . . . One of Huxley's major evidence that supposedly proved evolution was the evolution of the horse. He said in one of his essays that this was scientific proof and therefore evolution rested upon a 'secure foundation'. This horse series was taught as fact through the education system for generations, but has now been 'discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information.'7
One of Huxley's mentors was Charles Lyell, who popularized the idea that massive layers of sedimentary rocks could not have been laid down catastrophically; they must have taken millions of years to form. He also insisted that large river valleys must have taken millions of years to form. Evidence today from Mount St Helens and many other areas has seriously challenged these ideas, and yet it was Charles Lyell who gave Huxley ammunition to insist that the Church abandon the idea of the worldwide Flood.
Great numbers in the Church continue to accept the word of men, and reject the Word of God. However, history teaches us that many evolutionary ideas that are taught today as fact will undoubtedly be abandoned by the evolutionists of tomorrow.
Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.