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The Appeal of Evolution

by R. H. Boll

Robert H. Boll (1875-1956)

Robert H. Boll (1875-1956)

First Appeared in a 1927 Volume of the Word and Work

In what lies the peculiar appeal of the doctrine of Evolution? It is really not only an unproved, but even a disproved theory; yet the world of intellect, science and education lies largely in its fascinating grasp. Darwin himself (“Life and Letters”) expresses his amazement at the sudden and widespread vogue of his theory. “I was a young man with unformed ideas. I threw out theories and suggestions, wondering at all times over everything, and to my astonishment the ideas took like wildfire; men made a religion of them.” A recent writer commenting on this says: “This candid statement suggests that men liked the theory, whether it could be proved or not.” Yes they did, and do still. Why do they like it?

If the Doctrine of Evolution were merely a scientific theory; if it were only a question of the method by which this world was created, one would not need be troubled. The theory of Evolution is far more. At first sight it appears to be an abstract question, such as might engage the interest of the schools only; an unpractical and unimportant speculation–a question whether things began in this way or in that. What does it matter? The scholars and scientists say it was thus and so. It doesn’t matter to me. Let them have it as they will. One would presume that no doubt they know. But once accepted, that little item carries us on to far-reaching consequences. It enters into everything. It cannot be kept out of the realm of spiritual things. It affects radically the conception of God and Man and Sin and Salvation and the Bible and Christ and Destiny. There are some who think they can hold Evolution and stand by the Bible teaching [1] on these themes. But do they who say so know what the Bible teaches or what is the ultimate meaning of Evolution?

If the devil can implant a false premise in a heart, he can afford to wait for the conclusion, whether it comes in ten years or fifty; or in a hundred. He knows it is inevitable. The evil seed will spring and bear fruit in its season. Just one single, simple, plausible suggestion as to the origin of things, innocent of appearance, vouched for by learned and brilliant people–only a question of interpreting the Creation-story in the light of modern science; how can it matter? But it turns out that it matters vastly. “Evolution” is in its essence what Darwin said the people made of it–a Religion. And a religion utterly different and antagonistic to that of the Bible and to the faith which is in Christ. In that fact lies its subconscious appeal to poor human nature, and its fascination and power.

  1. AS TO GOD

To sinful man the thought of God is a burden. Since Adam’s day sinful man has been trying to hide from Him. Like the Prodigal Son we have been taking our journeys into a far country, where at least we do not always have to have Him before our eyes. Men “refused to have God in their knowledge” (Rom. 1:28). “There is no God! let there be no God!” they cried at the French Revolution, when they enthroned a harlot as “Goddess of Reason” and bore her through the streets. Yet, despite all efforts God is hard to get away from. There is always a point where He becomes indispensable. Science needs Him. The gaps are unbridgeable without Him. Philosophy cannot dispense with Him. He alone is the goal or the starting-point of all thinking. The human heart needs Him. Nothing is so utterly futile and meaningless as human existence is seen to be apart from [2] God. Society needs Him; men cannot hold up morally and socially without God. Nations need Him. History has shown more than once how nations that forget God are turned into hell. Nevertheless, the thought of God is troublesome. Our consciousness of Him is a check on our ambitions and desires. We somehow feel that He watches us. We cannot quite cast off the thought that we shall have to give account to Him. His very existence makes demands on us which the flesh would gladly repudiate. We would be glad to flee from Him and be rid of Him.

Evolution owes its first great attraction to the fact that it gets men rid of God. It puts Him far, far away. Hundreds of millions, or billions, of years ago He may have created something. Since then He has had no hand in the universe; all has gone forward by means of “resident forces” in the course of nature by the process of endless gradual progress and development. That is on the assumption that there is a “personal” God. Perhaps there isn’t. Perhaps God is Himself that “resident force” that indwells all things–a blind, unconscious, impersonal force that works along certain principles. Be it as it may, in any case the troublesome idea of God is disposed of. He is effectively put out of our affairs, and all thought of direct dealing or relationship with Him is wiped out. That is the first great charm of the theory to the flesh.

And yet–after the first exultation of freedom is past, a great desolation invades the human spirit that has got rid of God. We feel alone in the midst of a vast, complicated, unfeeling, terrible universe. The merciless laws of nature, the survival of the fittest, the play of cosmic forces, afford no hope nor peace; nor do they meet a heart’s longings. The man may speak jauntily and with great air of knowledge to reassure himself and [3] others, but he can never again say: “Our Father”: He is an orphan. A terrible need goes unsupplied. “As the heart thirsteth after the waterbrooks”–but, alas, there is now no more any slaking of that thirst. It must be stifled.

  1. AS TO MAN

But we turn to a more cheerful aspect. What of Man? Ah, how pleasant is the Evolution-gospel here! He is certainly not a fallen being! Nay: he is evermore rising. He is not the degenerate descendant of a once perfect individual who fell from a high estate, but he is the noblest product of the ages. He stands on a dizzy height, looking back upon the ascent of millions of years on which he climbed from the lowest type of animate being through more complex forms of reptile, bird, and beast. He has emerged out of the low estate of an ape-like brute, into primitive man, and onward, higher and higher. And all that by dint of a force inherent in himself, which still works steadily on. What will he not become? He needs no “new birth”; no “atonement”; no sort of special help or interference from on high–only a chance of development. The making of a God is in him, and in a few million years more he will be one. Not the individual, of course: these things are said of the race. What will become of the individual–of you and me? Who knows? We pass the way of countless hordes of the past and–well, where is last year’s snow? So Evolution flatters man–that is its second attraction; but also it immeasurably degrades him as to his past and leaves him hopeless as to the future.

III. AS TO SIN

Then there is that crux of all the questions that bother men’s souls–SIN. Evolution has a comforting way of dealing with that. [4] Sin is, according to it, nothing more than deficiency. Sin is the mark of imperfect development. It is but an accident on the road of progress. “Evil is good in the making.” By and by, in the course of the ages, mankind evolving, “by progressive change, according to certain, laws and by means of resident forces,” will move into purer heights of altruism and nobleness. This conception does away with the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and at the same time with the sharp sense of personal accountability. But it makes God the Author of Sin, and even the blinded human conscience lifts up a protest and will not be satisfied with the specious falsehood. But because this theory so smoothly absolves men of sin and guilt they find it attractive.

It must be observed that the Evolutionary theory has no room for miracle. However things may have begun, the theory is that from that beginning things have moved forward by fixed laws. This is essential to the doctrine. It is a necessary and fundamental assumption of this type of modern “science” that God never does anything. (Zeph. 1:12; 2 Peter 3:4.) The uniform, uninterrupted action of natural law is the one factor that figures in evolution, by hypothesis. On this premise follow a number of serious consequences of which we will take only two: First, How this affects our view of the Bible; second, How it affects our conception of Christ.

  1. HOW OUR VIEW OF THE BIBLE IS AFFECTED

The Bible claims to be of supernatural origin. Its existence is due to God’s breaking in upon the ordinary course of things: He spoke. The Bible is the inspired record. He sent messengers with a message directly from Him. (Heb. 1:1, 2; 2 Peter 1:21, etc.) [5] But the evolutionist cannot admit such a thing. Like all else, the Bible too must have evolved. It sprang out of the consciousness of a certain people, Israel, who had a genius for religion (just as, for example, the Greeks had a genius for philosophy and art, and the Romans for government); and the inspiration of the prophets and apostles was not different in kind from that of artists and poets. It would follow upon that assumption that the Bible presents a development from early crude ideas to the nobler and higher conceptions of Deity, the mind of man struggling from primitive superstitions toward spiritual truth. Hence the book of Genesis is to be regarded as consisting of myth and folklore; and a progress is traced from the first rude picture of Yahweh, a Hebrew tribal god, who was worshipped through a system of sacrifices and priestcraft, to the purer faith of the later prophets, who were emancipated from these swaddling-bands of primitive crudities; while a still higher plane is reached by “Jesus,” the “supreme religious genius.”

Such a view would indeed “make the Bible a new book” to any one that adopted it; and would release one from all inconvenient obligations of obedience to the old Book. Which again explains the pull of “Evolution” on the modern mind. The Book itself, however, refutes the daring falsehood. Now that a progress in the plan of God is discernible in the Bible every student knows. But the God of the first chapter is the God of the last; and the “angry Yahweh” of Exodus and Joshua is none other than the gracious God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. His word is truth, in the earliest day as in the latest; and the alleged difference between the later prophets and the priestly ritualistic religion of previous times does not exist. The progress observed is that of the path that as the dawning light shineth more and more unto [6] the perfect day; from truth to truth and from glory to glory. For mankind did not begin with crude ideas and evolve high conceptions of God, but started with high conceptions and degenerated (Romans 1:21-23). The Bible is not the record of man’s waning error, but of God’s rising truth. It takes little insight to perceive that the theory of Evolution is the inner source of the “destructive criticism,” the liberalism and modernism that has denied the truth of God’s word in our day.

  1. HOW THE FAITH IN CHRIST IS AFFECTED

If there is no miracle, no interference from on High, nothing but the eternal, unvarying reign of law and progressive development by resident forces–then Jesus Christ is Himself a product of evolution; an exceptionally fine specimen–the very noblest thus far–but in no wise supernatural. God did not send Him in any sense different from the “sending” of others. There was no Virgin birth–there could not have been. He wrought no miracles. He did not die for our sins. He could not have risen from the dead. He did not ascend to heaven. He is not coming again. The gospel testimony is not to be taken as the record of fact. He was not God’s Son in any unique sense. He is not really Savior, nor Redeemer. All of this, however disclaimed by some, follows logically and inevitably from evolutionary premises. The belief of these foundation truths is utterly incompatible with the theory of Evolution. There may be room in the Evolutionary scheme for a teacher, a leader, a hero, an example, but it has no place for a Redeemer. Man must needs be his own savior and redeemer.

And so, in the final sum-up, everything goes overboard and the light goes out. No [7] God, no inspired Word, no Savior, no redemption, no new birth, no sin, no atonement, no judgment, no hell, no heaven, no home.

As a scientific theory concerning the origin of things, “Evolution” is a miserable failure. It utterly fails to give the least clue concerning the origin of matter, the origin of life, the origin of consciousness, the origin of man; nor can it offer the least explanation of the fixity of species or the evidence of design in nature. But as a Satanic device to blind the minds and harden the hearts of a foolish generation who have loved darkness rather than the light it is a success unsurpassed. [8]

 

Bro. R. H. Boll was an editor of the print edition of Word & Work from 1916 to 1956.




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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

2 corinthians 1:3-4