A.J. Castellitto
Machen, Darwin, and God's creation
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By A.J. Castellitto
February 22, 2019

"In July of 1925, William Jennings Bryan wrote to J. Gresham Machen to see if fundamentalism's best known scholar would testify for the prosecution at the Scopes Trial. ...Machen had a reputation for not backing down from a fight. In fact, his biggest battles were yet to come, both at Princeton Seminary and in the missions controversy of the 1930s. But in this particular case Machen was remarkably sheepish and declined Bryan's request. ...Even though he was deeply opposed to liberalism and showed unparalleled chutzpah in combating Presbyterian modernists, Machen believed evolution was a side issue in the controversy dividing liberals and conservatives. In fact, his book Christianity and Liberalism, arguably his most important, makes no mention of evolution or Darwin." – Inerrancy or Design? Old Princeton and Evolution,

D. G. Hart and John R. Muether


https://www.opc.org/OS/html/V9/1b.html


I've been a member of Orthodox Presbyterian Church since 2013, and it's about as far as I go back in my familiarity with (and deep appreciation for) our denomination's founder, J. Gresham Machen. However, I must disagree with church historians, D.G. Hart and John Muether, when they claim that Machen and Old Princeton offered 'a better opportunity for credibly engaging the scientific community and meaningfully defending the truth of Christianity than the one now promoted by scientific creationists.'


In my estimation, these Old Princeton guys should have been right there on the front line in the Scopes trial fighting tooth and nail against evolution and its implications. However, by framing the scientific debate on the origin of humanity as solely an existential and intellectual war between Biblical Creationism vs. Darwin's Theory of Evolution a false dichotomy is ultimately established. Both the academic and the layman should look at evolution on its own merits and acknowledge the multitude of disqualifying ways Darwin's theory of evolution fails to withstand the scrutiny of the scientific method.

There is little science and observable evidence to account for Darwin's greater assumptions, and there is no reason for a Christian to try and accommodate the fictional elements of his theory of origins and human development. The only mutation the scientific community has been able to duplicate in a lab is a fruit fly and they ultimately just rearranged its genetic disposition to the point of lesser functionality. There are breeding restrictions/limitations that could never transcend species and the historical record is skewed to try and accommodate the presuppositions of evolutionary theory.

Evolutionary theorists have nothing that even meets a minimum standard of criteria for the scientific method, and the probabilities against unguided naturalism bringing about even the slightest inter-species progress is off the charts. I, for one, will trust the information God has provided and discard their attempts to alter natural realities that exemplify special, purposeful, and glorious creation and design, despite sin. I believe man, in particular, was created with a high capacity of thought, speech, reasoning, etc. My ultimate issue with Darwin's theory is the various and extensive aspects of his theory that falls outside the observable, testable realm, which would include anything resembling macroevolution. It simply assumes too much.

The amount of time required for the type of wholesale progressive changes in the functionality and complexity of simple organisms is beyond infinity. We develop from the genetic material we were given. Natural selection is fine; however, Darwin's tendency to take what is logical and observable and make a great leap of predisposed faith is the problem. Darwin's theory of evolution takes some legitimate natural phenomenon that nobody disputes and mightily projects. Survival of the fittest is a fine concept as far as it goes. It's how Darwin attempted to take his theories into the realm of common descent that not only conflicts with Biblical creation and intelligent design, but also the very scientific method upon which its own legitimacy depends. Yet, it remains dogma.

Thankfully, there are more than a few highly qualified dissenters in our day...

"We know intuitively that Darwinism can accomplish some things, but not others. The question is what is that boundary? Does the information content in living things exceed that boundary? Darwinists have never faced those questions. They've never asked scientifically, can random mutation and natural selection generate the information content in living things." https://dissentfromdarwin.org/

https://evolutionnews.org/2017/08/evolutionary-theorist-concedes-evolution-largely-avoids-biggest-questions-of-biological-origins/


Personally, I'm tired of hearing how Darwin's theory of evolution is settled science. Sure, if you don't hold up theories to proper level of scrutiny, then, well, I guess it's settled. I've never been one to accept things at face value, with the exception being those realities upon which God has opened my heart and mind (as there is no pursuit as satisfying as the treasures to be found in God's Word and His creation).

In many ways, the scripture account is much more verifiable when measured against historical data/records, human experience, and natural realities including the effects of sin.



As far as the Scopes trial is concerned, I understand Machen not wanting to confound matters of the church with matters of the state. Machen was one to stay in his own lane and was a great watchman for the preservation of sound doctrine and theology. I ultimately understand where Machen was coming from.



I guess neo-Darwinian evolution is just another excuse for hardened unbelievers to take a pass on the God of Heaven and Earth. Ultimately, this issue transcends politics with the whole debate coming down to existential suppositions. One is a God ordered worldview, and the other, anything but. Not surprisingly, Scopes was dipping into sources that promoted eugenics, white supremacy, and the like – basically, a Nazi's dream curriculum.


As for William Jennings Bryan, he was ultimately a Social Gospel guy, which is strange, because now a days the Social Gospel is considered synonymous with Social Justice and a liberal leaning, Bible departing, over simplified form of Christianity (not fundamentalism). Bryan, to his credit, was a Biblical literalist and a true humanitarian. But ultimately, the offenses of the social gospel (which was often rooted in a premillennialist interpretation of Revelation 20) were more theological and doctrinal, while today's social justice movement is political and activist to the core with attempts to use the force of government to propel a universal form of liberation theology void of an ultimate dependency on Jesus Christ. It's a pagan, power grab, sold under the guise of the golden rule and destined to fail as per those to whom its proponents appeal, which is ultimately not God.


This is why theology and a Presbyterian form of Church government, when applied faithfully, is so important. I believe we church members need to assist in respectfully and lovingly expressing our denominational concerns and support. We must pray for men in leadership positions while holding them accountable if something seems a little off. But most importantly, we must be willing and ready to be corrected ourselves.

For further reading:

"Dr. F. LaGard Smith, in his book Darwin's Secret Sex Problem: Exposing Evolution's Fatal Flaw – The Origin of Sex, argues that evolution's biggest flaw is that its primary mechanism, natural selection, could not have produced a compatible male and female pair of micro-organisms for each species to procreate." https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2018/may/arizona-department-of-education-sparks-new-round-of-evolution-debate

© A.J. Castellitto

 

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