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The Bible and Evolution

J.E. Thoen

1922 Synod Convention Essay

The purpose of this paper is not to deliver a detailed argument on either the Bible or Evolution. I regard it as my task to point the way for an intelligent discussion of the subject at this meeting. In order that this may be done, it is necessary to state briefly what we mean by the terms of the subject.

By the word Bible we mean all the canonical books of the Scriptures as a whole, whose author is God, the unconditioned, infinite, supreme Being. The Bible is the Word of God not only as to its contents, but also as to the words and phrases used. It does not only contain truth but is the absolute truth in every detail.

By the word Evolution we mean all those theories which are intended to explain nature or natural phenomena by or according to the principle, that all things have developed and attained their present form by certain forces resident in matter, whether these theories presuppose a first cause or regard matter as being eternal.

It is not our purpose to deliver an apology, nor to set forth our reasons for believing that the Bible is the Word of God, and therefore the absolute truth, which “cannot be broken.” That is our common faith, and I need not discuss that in this connection. If our faith in the Bible is attacked, we are willing and ready at any time to defend it. The purpose of this discussion must he to compare the theories of Evolution, or their fundamental principle with some of the statements of the Bible, and if it does not accord with these statements, we shall reject it as false and unworthy of belief. By taking this stand we are well aware of the fact, that we shall be regarded as bigots, and too narrow-minded to desire the advancement of knowledge. We are, however, not concerned about what the verdict of unbelievers may be, because we know that such accusations are false. Every fair-minded person, whether he believes the Bible is the Word of God in the sense we take it or not will, if he studies the history of the orthodox Lutheran Church, find, that there is no denomination in all the Christian Church, which has labored more zealously for the advancement of knowledge in all its legitimate branches. We are therefore not concerned about the judgment of those who in their ignorance accuse us of bigotry. What we desire is to grow in faith, to learn to know the pitfalls and dangers in our way, that we may avoid them, and be preserved in a true faith. Our guide in this as well as in all other things must be the Word of God, the infallible rule of faith and conduct. Whatever the Bible says upon any subject we regard as the absolute truth, from which there is no appeal. Even though our own experience should seem to contradict the Bible, we are constrained to take its statements in preference to our own experience.

When the Lord commanded Peter to “launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught,” Peter answered: ‘Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless, at thy word I will let down the net.” (Luke 5,4–5) Peter acted against his own experience. He was an experienced fisherman, and had his own opinion as to when and where to cast his net, but he had heard Jesus speak with authority, as no man had spoken, and he was constrained to regard the word of Jesus as better than his own experience. That is and must be our position also. Everything human, even experience, is fallible and imperfect, but the Word of God is infallible as He Himself is infallible. Whatever man may seem to find as truth, cannot be set no as absolute, for he is a fallible, imperfect being. Of this we have thousands of examples in the history of man. God only can speak with authority as the one who has absolute knowledge.

For this very reason, the Bible does not reject or contradict any real fact of science. Whatever laws or principles have been discovered to be actually in operation in nature will be found to harmonize with the statements of the Bible in so far as it has expressed itself upon the subject.

The Bible does not speak scientifically or in the manner of science and philosophy. Its declarations are statements of fact. It does not set up a system of logical reasoning to arrive at the truth regarding nature or natural phenomena, hut it simply states the fact in language suitable to the understanding of man.

When we read the statement in Gal. 6,7: “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap,” it is a plain statement of an undisputed law of nature. It is not given as the result of scientific experiment or of philosophical reasoning. The author simply states this law and bases his moral lesson upon it. Just as the sower will always reap the kind he sows, so will evil conduct bring evil results, “God is not mocked.” Evil will result in evil, good will result in good. If it is not true that the sower always must expect to reap the same kind which he sows, then it would not be true that evil will result in evil, but the contrary. The purpose of the Bible is not to explain natural laws, nor the constitution of matter, but to reveal the way of salvation. We do not find any treaties on metaphysics in the Bible, but laws and principles in nature are stated as in the above, as an indisputable fact. Like causes produce like effects. That is a general, fundamental law, and applies to the spiritual as well as physical world.

When astronomers claim that the foundations of the earth are not of solid matter, as of stone or any other physical substance, the Bible does not contradict them. We read in Job 26,7, “He stretches out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.” When the Bible speaks of scientific facts, it does not claim authority for its statements by careful experiments, investigations and reasonings. Its authority is infinitely higher. The authority of scientists and philosophers is and always must be human, but the authority of the Bible is always divine. The Lord only has and can have absolute knowledge of his handiwork.

If, therefore, Evolution is a real science and deals with ascertained facts, it will not contradict the statement of the Bible. This, however, is not the case. Evolution is not a science. Science is literally knowledge, but usually denotes a systematic and orderly arrangement of knowledge. Evolution is not science in this sense. Philosophy is reasoning, argumentation used to explain particular phenomena. It is really an attempt to establish preconceived theories by systematic reasoning or argumentation. The scientist will also use a theory a supposition as an objective towards which he works. His theory will remain a theory a mere supposition until by actual experiment it has been demonstrated to be true, and his demonstrations must rest upon actual fact. Unless this is the case, his work is mere philosophising or speculation. If he has actually demonstrated by experiment or research that what he supposed is true, he has arrived at a scientific fact, and not until then can he proclaim his theory or supposition as true. When the evolutionist supposes that all things have developed and attained their present form by forces dwelling in matter, that the more complex forms have been evolved from the simpler forms by such a force, and not by direct creation, it devolves upon him to prove it by actual demonstration. The theory or supposition that there is a transition from one species into another has not been proven, and remains a mere theory or supposition to this day. Scores of learned and gifted men have spent their whole lives end energy in seeking the proof for this theory, but none have succeeded. The missing link is just as much a mere supposition today as it was when the theory of evolution was first conceived. Not one single transitional form has been found in the animal or vegetable kingdoms. Nor has any one been found to demonstrate that one substance of matter has been evolved into another substance by inherent force. That there are numerous varieties in species no one will deny, but that varieties exist is no proof that varieties are transitional or intermediate forms. Darwin himself admits failure. He has not been able by one single instance to demonstrate the origin of species in accordance with his theory. He says: “No one ought to feel surprise at much remaining as yet unexplained in regard to the origin of species and varieties, if he make due allowance for our profound ignorance in regard to the mutual relations of the many beings which live around us.” (Introduct. Orig. of Sp. P. 24 Harvard Class.) If his ignorance of the mutual relations between living beings is profound, he lacks the very knowledge needed to prove his theory. This is the knowledge he bas been seeking, and has failed to find. He says further: “Still less do we know of the mutual relations of the innumerable inhabitants of the world during the many past geological epochs in its history.” (P. 24). Now since this is so, how ran we accept his work as anything but speculation, a mere supposition. The origin of species by “natural selection etc.” must be proven by mutual relations, hence, whoever is ignorant of these mutual relations must fail. Darwin was, however, not so ignorant with regard to the mutual relations of the beings which live around us, that he failed on that account, but he failed because he looked for a relation between these beings which does not exist. The relation he sought was, that one species is the progenitor of another. In this he failed, for there is no such a thing either in animate or inanimate matter. The theory is false and should be discarded. Why has not the theory been discarded? Darwin admits that the knowledge gained by a lifelong effort has failed to prove his theory, and we see his followers today searching heaven and earth for the proofs. The knowledge already gained cannot impel them to continue the search, for all their efforts have failed, the knowledge gained has brought them no nearer the goal. It is evident that no one is compelled to hold the theory of evolution because of any near prospect of proving its correctness. Darwin failed, and there are many evolutionists who admit their failure now, but they are continuing the chase, having merely discarded his methods of stalking the game. The reason for their persistent effort is not success but an ardent desire to overthrow the records of the Bible. For this very reason the theories of Evolution cannot be harmonized with the Bible.

Darwin declares it his purpose to establish a theory opposed to the “view that each species has been independently created.” He says: “Although much remains obscure, and will long remain obscure, I can entertain no doubt, after the most deliberate study and dispassionate judgment of which I am capable, that the view which most naturalists until recently entertained, and which I formerly entertained — namely, that each species has been independently created — is erroneous.” (Int. Orig. of Sp. p. 24). The view that each species has been independently created is in harmony with the Bible, but he has discarded this view and is putting forth his best effort to prove that it is not correct. In order to do this he must have another theory to substitute for it, and this is what he believes: “I believe that animals are descended from at most only four or five progenitors, and plants from an equal or lesser number.” (Orig. of Sp. p. 523) This is what he has labored long and strenuously to prove, because he does not believe that species have been independently created. He does not in his theory deny a creation of the first forms, nor does he deny the existence of a Creator of the first simple forms, but he refuses to believe that each species has been independently created, according to the records of creation as found in the Bible.

It is not necessary for us to quote many authors on evolution because the theory is well known, and is based upon the general principle stated above.

Some will perhaps say that Darwinism is dead, that it has been discarded by the best modern scientists. This may be true as far as the learned men of science are concerned, in so far as they have discarded his method of proving the theory, but they all adhere to the same general principle that all things have developed or attained their present form by certain forces inherent in matter and not by creation. It is not true, however, that Darwinism is dead in the popular mind. It is Darwin’s theory that is known and believed by the people. It is Darwinism that is taught in our public schools, and is praised and advertised in the public press. That learned philosophers have discarded the line of reasoning followed by Darwin, and in their search for the proof of their theory are using other arguments does not change the fact that Darwinism still lives among the people.

If the contention is made that the modern evolutionist found better methods and struck a sounder line of reasoning, this fact still remains that all are running in the chase, and not even the foremost among them are as yet able to describe the color of the game. They are all searching for proofs, and, as it frequently happens that some one raises the cry that he has found it, the whole company of searchers have invariably declared that he has not found the right thing. This has been going on so long that any person with common intelligence should find it difficult to have any faith in the ultimate success of the search.

Our contention that evolution cannot be harmonized with the Bible is evident not only from the statements of Darwin but also from others. When Napoleon had read Laplace’s work “System of Celestial Mechanics” he said to the author: “Monsieur, I have examined your work and find therein no room for the existence or God.” To this Laplace answered: “Citizen, Premier Consul. I have no need of such an hypotheses.”

Ernest Haeckel writes: “The conception of creation is perfectly unimaginable, if by it is understood ‘an origination of something out of nothing.’ This acceptation is quite incompatible with one of the first and chiefest of Natures laws — one indeed universally acknowledged — namely with the great law, that all matter is eternal.” (Generelle Morphologic der Organismen Vol. I, p. 171). Again he says: “Natural science teaches that matter is eternal and imperishable, for experience has never shown us that even the smallest particle of matter has come into existence or passed away.” (The History of Creation, Vol. I, p. 8).

Gustav Labon says: “If hypotheses analogous to mine (as to the origion of matter and energy) are rejected, we must return to that of a creator drawing forth worlds from his will — that is to say, from a nothing much more mysterious than the substratum from which I have endeavored to raise them. The gods having been eliminated from nature, where our ignorance alone had placed them, we must try to explain things without them.” (Evolution of Forces, page 98, 1908).

The modern evolutionist goes farther then Darwin and boldly denies God and creation. Instead of approaching nearer to the records of the Bible he boldly rejects them all, and even rejects an intelligent first cause. There should be no need of further argument to show that evolution cannot be harmonized with the Bible, for it is evident that these men speak as they do because the theory of evolution is contrary to the Word of God.

Robert Kenedy Duncan says: “It may safely be said that many, perhaps most men of science — physiological chemists, biologists, and psychologists, are agreed — ‘There is no life apparently necessary to or visible in the body; therefore this is no Life.’ Upon this assumption they believe and they teach that all our feelings, thinkings, and willings, our very consciousness. are the products of the play of physico-chemical processes in the brain.” (Some Chemical Problems of To-Day, p. 80, 1911). The Biblical idea of life and spirit is absolutely rejected. Life to the modern evolutionist is a phenomenon of matter and nothing more. Life is merely a manifestation of energy.

As has been indicated, it is not the purpose of this paper to meet the evolutionist on his own ground and refute his argument, for it does not belong to theology to expound human theories nor to refute them on the basis of human reason. The theologian needs only to show that a theory is or is not in accordance with the Word of God and he has done his work. If a theory does not in any way contradict the Word of God he will let it stand even though his own reason may not be satisfied with the proofs adduced for its correctness. As a person the theologian would be entitled to his opinion on such a matter as well as any other, if he possesses the knowledge requisite to judge in such matters. It would not be difficult to meet the modern evolutionist on his own ground and show up the fallacies of his reasoning, but it does not belong to us to do so here. Nor do we need to bother about it, because the evolutionists themselves will attend to the refutation of their own arguments as they have done hitherto. Men who deny God, and the Christian faith will continue to grope about in the dark obscure intricacies of philosophy, erecting one system after the other and discarding them again. The only way to the light of truth is the Word of God. What we are concerned about then is, do the theories of evolution harmonize with the Bible?

The general principle of these theories that all things have developed and attained their present form by certain forces in matter does deny the creation of species independently. If the Bible teaches anything clearly it certainly teaches that species have been independently created. We know that not all scientists classify alike, and that in some instances it is very difficult to determine species. This, however, is no argument against the independent creation of species, but only plain evidence of our “profound ignorance” of the mutual relations of the many living beings around us, as Darwin has so aptly put it.

We read in Gens. 1,11: “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so,” v. 12. “And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind.” How could it be more clearly stated that God created each kind or species in the vegetable world independently? He commanded the earth to bring forth grass and herb and tree all after his kind with the instruments of propagation after his kind, and it all took place on the same day. In the 21st verse we read: “And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after his kind and every winged foul after his kind.” And in the 25th verse: “And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and everything that creepeth upon the earth after his kind.” Of all the innumerable beings living about us not one is omitted in this list. It is as though the author has guarded especially against the idea of development of species or kind after creation, for he expressly states that God created all the living beings in the vegetable and animal kingdoms after their kind. Even every thing that creepeth upon the earth was made after its kind. This was not something that took long geological epochs, but the whole creation took place in six days. Exodus 20,6: “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is.” Everything was made in these six days. As the story of creation proceeds each epoch of time is described as a day having morning and evening. Nowhere in the Scriptures is a period of time described as beginning and ending with evening and morning be it shorter or longer than a day of twenty-four hours. Whoever, therefore, claims it has taken longer than six days for species or any other thing to come into being, denies the plain statement of the Bible, and his theory must be rejected as false.

Whoever will compare the theories of evolution with the record of creation must come to the conclusion that they cannot be harmonized. And whoever claims that man has descended from the brute denies and rejects the plain statement of the Bible. Of the creation of man we read in the 26th verse: “And God said, Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness.” Man was not created like the brute merely after his kind, but was created “after our likeness,” “in the image of God created he him” (v. 27). He gave man to have “dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” “And the Lord formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Man was certainly created by a separate act of God, independently from all other beings. When the evolutionist denies the existence of the soul or spirit of man, he rejects the plain statement of the Bible.

All the theories concerning the descent of man from the brute, is absolutely contradictory to the Word of God, and must be rejected and shunned as much as the denial of the existence of God. Whoever believes in the descent of man from the brute must consequently deny the whole Christian religion. If the theories of evolution are true the Bible is not true. If the theories of evolution are true there is no God, there is no Creator. Man has not been created in the image of God. If the theory of evolution is true then man is not responsible to any higher Being, there is no moral law, there is no right or wrong conduct. There is no rule by which man is guided except his own appetite and desire. There is no justice, there is no righteousness. There is no life after death, there is no hope. All there is for man is for each one to seek to satisfy his desires according to his might. If life consists merely in “the play of physico-chemical processes in the brain,” then there is no moral responsibility, and no man should be punished for any act of his. If evolution is true then our whole social order, our civil government, our laws, our civilization is not in harmony with nature, and must stand as a hindrance to the further evolution of man. There is no love, and there should be none.

We complain of crime increasing in our day, of the growth of immorality and greed, of the lack of patriotism, of unbelief. How can we expect anything else as long as our children and youth shall receive their education by teachers of evolution? We are reaping the logical fruit of such an education. If our children and youth are to be nurtured by such husks, then must our civilization become extinct, our government become anarchy, our people become the lowest and most abject of all living creatures.

If we desire to preserve our government, our liberty, and our civilization, if we desire to preserve our nation from moral rot and complete destruction, we must ban the theory of evolution from our schools, and our laboratories and all branches of science. Evolution is not a science, it is mere philosophising, speculation that is not needed or useful anywhere. All that can be learned concerning the laws of nature or the development of any science can better be learned without it, for there is not a shred of truth in it. It is false and destructive of all truth.

If we desire happiness for ourselves and our posterity we must follow the doctrine of the Word of God. We must adhere to it, we must let our children be nurtured by it. There is no other source of happiness than faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only power of salvation, and no people or individual can attain true happiness for this life or the life to come through any other source.

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