Thursday, 19 March 2009

Evolution and the BBC

I still have a number of reservations about the compatibility of Genesis with evolution as it is propounded today. Nevertheless, I am also provoked at the lack of willingness by the media in this 'year of Darwin' to even acknowledge that there are many bible believing Christians that do see a compatibility.

The following was written in our church magazine to try to address this.

Fridays we receive a news magazine. It contains an item entitled: 'It must be true, I read it in the tabloids.' The assumption is of course that the tabloids are notoriously untrustworthy. Reflecting on various documentaries over the last months, I wonder whether another item deserves inclusion: 'It must be true, I heard it on TV.'

In a year in which we remember the diligent research of Charles Darwin, it is ironic that programs presenting the issues he raises are allowed to be so biased. Watching them, one would assume that Darwin somehow dealt religion a fatal blow. We are certainly led to believe that before his arrival Christians had always held that the world was created in a literal six days, and that after his work they stubbornly refused to give any credence to the evidence he produced.

Yet this is demonstrably false. Origen (3rd century) and Augustine (4th century) are two of the most formative early Christian thinkers. Yet both held that the six days were intended to be read figuratively. A Jewish theologian named Philo lived around the time of Jesus. His writings show that this view was current even then. And numerous Christian thinkers since the time of Darwin have seen the Genesis account in just this way.

Evolution doesn't therefore prove the Bible wrong. If true, it simply suggests that those who think the Bible’s portrayal of creation was always intended to be read more like a poetic account of history than a scientific one, are probably right. This is not to say that there are no Christians thinkers who take a different view. No, the problem is with the decision to focus only on these people, and on the extreme ones at that.

So it seems that a compatibility between modern science and Christian faith is just not controversial enough for airtime. And the desire for controversy is not limited to this subject alone. For example, the apparent controversies highlighted in the early episodes of Channel 4’s history of Christianity were debunked years ago, and are in no way a threat to what has always been believed about Jesus.

This Easter we remember the death and historical resurrection of Jesus. John finishes his account of these events by writing: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20v31).

Let’s be more discerning with what we hear on TV. There are very good reasons indeed for believing that the God who made this world entered this world in Jesus, and that he gives eternal life to those who turn to him. Can I therefore invite you this Easter Day to join us at church, and consider this authentic and wonderful message of Jesus with us.