SEVENTY years ago the German army, under Adolf Hitler, was marching through Europe. Let us imagine that the allies had offered to hand over the whole of France to Hitler on condition that he stopped his advance. He would probably have accepted the offer gratefully, but there is no doubt that, before long, he would have restarted his attempt to conquer the whole of Europe. The fact is: battles aren’t won by giving ground!
The battle to destroy Biblical Christianity is littered with examples of Christians giving ground in the sincere but vain hope that this would halt the advance of secularism. The first capitulation was over the age of the earth. Until about 200 years ago, when the science of geology was born, most people believed the earth was around 6,000 years old — as the Bible clearly implies. And the early geologists were mainly catastrophists who believed that most of the sedimentary rocks were laid down by the Biblical flood. To quote Dr Ernst Mayr: “The reason why catastrophism was adopted by virtually all of the truly productive leading geologists in the first half of the 19th century is that the facts seemed to support it.”1 Of course, the facts have not changed, but some geologists began to suggest that the past should be interpreted according to present-day geological processes — a doctrine known as uniformitarianism. Charles Lyell’s 1830 book Principles of Geology reinforced the idea that the earth was millions of years old.
“SAVING” THE BIBLE
What were Bible-believing Christians to do? Many felt that, in order to “save” Christianity they had to somehow fit these long ages into the Bible. In 1814, the Rev. Thomas Chalmers came up with the “gap theory,” which cleverly inserted the millions of years between the first two verses of Genesis One. According to this idea, the six days of Genesis were a re-creation after some kind of divine judgment. C. I. Schofield popularised this idea in his famous Reference Bible. Between the first two verses of Genesis, he inserted the sub-heading: “Earth made waste and empty by judgment”, with an obscure reference to Jeremiah 4: 23-26. His commentary states, “The first creative act refers to the dateless past, and gives scope for all the geologic ages.” This conveniently put all the sedimentary rocks and fossils, and the dinosaurs, into the space between vv. 1 & 2. Problem solved — they can have their millions of years — and we can still have Genesis! Did this giving of ground impress the secularists? Not one bit! The next compromise was over the creation days themselves. The “day-age” theory was born. Even though the way the Hebrew word for day is used in Genesis clearly implies literal days, this new interpretation stretched the days into long periods of time —thousands or even millions of years each, during which God created things in stages.
This compromise was still not enough to win over the secularists, so the next step was to abandon the days altogether, and regard the Genesis account as a “literary device” — the so-called “framework” theory. God created “progressively” over millions of years, His final creative act being humankind. Still this was not enough, and the next compromise was “theistic evolution.” Darwin’s theory demanded millions of years, so many leading churchmen decided that God had used evolution as His method. Some theistic evolutionists still insisted on a literal Adam and Eve, though many have now even capitulated on this, suggesting that God placed His image in a couple of “hominids.”
BEGINNING OF THE DECLINE
Having given all this ground, what is there left to give up? Very little, except perhaps God Himself — which, of course, is what the secularists want! Although most of those who compromised were godly people who had the best of motives, the beginning of the decline of Christianity in the West can be traced to the time, long before Darwin, when the Church began to embrace the concept of millions of years. All theories involving millions of years imply that death and suffering pre-dated the appearance of humans. Furthermore, to believe that humans evolved from earlier forms removes “the Fall” as an historic event. The Bible says, “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin.”(Romans 5: 12). Evolution undermines the Gospel, which says that Jesus came to save us from sin and death.
Will the Church learn that battles are never won by giving ground? What can be done? The Church needs to repent of these compromises and start to regain the ground that has been lost. Unless it does, there is unlikely to be any significant revival of Christianity in the West, and evangelism will continue to be difficult in our increasingly secular society. However, there is evidence that many are sceptical of evolution, and if the Church rediscovers confidence in the truth of the Bible’s account of creation, there could be much fruit.
1 Science, June 1972 (emphasis added)