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How Michael Dowd Is Helping Churches Preach Darwin From Their Pulpits… At The Expense of the Gospel

February 8, 2013
dowd-kids-2011

Dowd teaches kids lessons like “Who’s Proud to be Related to an Iguana?”

“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” Romans 10:14

“For since in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:21

What the modern creationist movement – and Christianity as a whole – needs is more Gospel preachers. That might sound like a funny thing to say at first glance. After all, don’t we live in a world saturated with Christian media? Don’t we already have countless ministries dedicated to the defense and proclamation of the Gospel?

I certainly think we could use more apologists and even more Christian media, but the reason I’m saying that we need more Gospel preachers is because we have few who are doing it effectively. We need to preach the whole Gospel from Creation to the Cross to the Consummation, with a renewed emphasis on God’s wrath and eternal judgment. As a preacher, I’ve noticed that sin, the law and hell generally get only a cursory nod, but the Good News can only be fully appreciated in light of the Bad News. These days, many preachers deliver an abbreviated version or another gospel entirely, one that promises us great benefits for a token fealty. Worse still, we preach a message that has no context.

I began thinking about this as I was listening to Dr. David Menton speak at a 2010 Answers For Pastors conference. He noted that one of the many deficits of the Intelligent Design movement is that it lacks a history. Humanists and secularists have begun to become aware of the importance of an overarching story to provide a context for our beliefs.

CreationLetter.com and CreationSundays.com are two of the better-known ministry outreaches of DefGen.org. When I discovered that over 12,000 Christian clergy had signed atheist Dr. Michael Zimmerman’s pro-evolution letter that called Adam and Eve and other Biblical accounts “teaching stories” akin to Aesop’s Fables, I decided to do something about it. I created CreationLetter.com to allow Christians [clergy in particular] to sign a letter affirming the historical veracity of Scripture. Since Clergy Letter signers also preach evolution from our very pulpits on Evolution Sunday, we began encouraging folks to have a Creation Sunday instead. At some point, we became aware that some churches were using Michael Dowd’s Epic of Evolution, also called the Great Story, as part of their Evolution Sunday celebrations. Michael Dowd describes his Epic of Evolution as “humanity’s common creation story. It is the 14 billion year science-based sacred story of cosmic genesis, from the formation of the galaxies and the origin of Earth life, to the development of self-reflective consciousness and collective learning, to the emergence of comprehensive compassion and tools to assist humanity in living harmoniously with the larger body of life.”

Interestingly enough, Connie Barlow1 acknowledges that “a coherent cosmology (creation story / worldview) through which to enjoy and securely navigate the years of childhood wonder, learning, and innocence” is a “basic human requirement.” Train up a child…

Yet when she comes into churches to teach children the Great Story, what does she teach about the ultimate authority of the Bible? She gives kids a skewed view of God’s Word:

“Do we present children with only the shiny bright side of ancient religious stories and teachings?” she asks. “Wouldn’t that be unfair to them (and us!) — perhaps encouraging them to regard religious scripture as good and “holy”, like many of their friends do, rather than as just one more book to which modern critical and moral reasoning must be applied? “

It’s clear in her treatment of the Noachian Flood that her goal is to discredit the Bible and twist its revelation to suit her own humanist agenda:

“…Do we continue to promote “religious literacy” in children by using the picture book Bible story of Noah’s ark, with a rainbow overhead and cute creatures filing onboard two-by-two? Or do we share the dark and horrific side as well — and at what age? After all, if we invite children to put on their thinking caps, isn’t one obvious outcome a gasp of horror when they recognize what happened to those left behind? There, floating around the ark as the waters subside would be billions of bloated bodies: drowned bunnies and dead puppies and all the millions of boys and girls who were not taken aboard. Freely thinking, we begin to see that it is God who was responsible for this terrible crime against nature, against sentient life forms, and against innocent children.”

This skewed view of God and the Bible also extends to the Resurrection of Christ:

“And is there anything honorable to be done with the religious underpinnings of Easter? Is an alleged supernatural resurrection from death anything we want to have our kids take seriously enough to ponder and make up their own minds about? Do we want to expose our children to the fact that human beings not only used to torture people by nailing their hands and feet to wooden planks but that the cross that some of their Christian friends wear around their necks is an even more barbaric symbol of capital punishment than a noose? …Thank goodness the Easter Bunny gives us a secular alternative.”

Her real fear is that if children aren’t imprinted with the Epic of Evolution that they’ll believe in Christ Jesus:

“Let us not leave the business of imprinting to the whims of the world outside the family home, outside our church community. Imprinting in one way or another will occur. If there is a substantial gap in a child’s relational bond with the world at large, that gap will be filled — perhaps when their best friend says, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so,” and then extends an invitation to church camp.”

Michael Dowd has professed in his book, Thank God for Evolution, that he thinks of the supernatural as “pre-natural.” In other words, once we come up with all-natural answers, he presumes the supernatural is invalidated. A lot of people have this attitude. Science has wed itself to pure naturalism and refused to allow a Divine foot to enter the door. As a consequence, all science can offer us are all-natural answers which may or may not be true – and are certainly false where supernatural agency was responsible! The hitch is that science via naturalism is prevented from ever acknowledging the supernatural. Only all-natural answers are allowed. This is why Richard Dawkins must dissemble that the design he sees in nature is only “apparent design.” Yet a lot of folks make the assumption that once an all-natural answer is found, the supernatural answer must be discarded as pre-natural, pre-scientific ignorance. Professing themselves to wise, they’ve become fools who say in their hearts, There is no God.

Dowd, an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ [to their condemnation], denies the virgin birth of Jesus Christ and his physical resurrection from the grave2, the latter doctrine being a non-negotiable requirement of authentic saving faith per Romans 10:9. Seeing the supernatural as a synonym for the unnatural, he tells the Gospel as follows:

“An unnatural king who occasionally engages in unnatural acts sends his unnatural son to Earth in an unnatural way. He’s born an unnatural birth, lives an unnatural life, performs unnatural deeds, and is killed and unnaturally rises from the dead in order to redeem humanity from an unnatural curse brought about by an unnaturally talking snake. After 40 days of unnatural appearances he unnaturally zooms off to heaven to return to his unnatural father, sit on an unnatural throne, and unnaturally judge the living and the dead. If you profess to believe in all this unnatural activity, you and your fellow believers get to spend an unnaturally long time in an unnaturally boring paradise while everyone else suffers an unnatural, torturous hell forever.”

Is this how you would tell the Gospel? Remember that when these evolutionary evangelists come to your area that our children, most of whom are educated in government schools, have already been taught this Big History and apologetics for millions of years of evolution. In other words, they’ve been primed for the anti-Christ humanist message of folks like Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd!

We need to teach our children true history from the Bible instead. It isn’t enough to refute to evolution. The notion of millions of years is derived from the concept of uniformitarianism, the idea that the present is the key to the past. Many Christians fail to recognize that uniformitarianism presumes that God has never acted in the past to interrupt or override the processes we observe today and likewise sees supernatural revelation [the Bible] as irrelevant to the search for truth. Ironically, God promises us in Genesis 8:22 that we should expect to see uniformity in nature, but this promise is made after Creation, the Fall and the Flood! When children are being taught the history of the universe in terms of millions of years, their hearts and minds are being prepared to accept an all-natural worldview that excludes the supernatural from all consideration and divorces God from reality.

Some will probably object that we need only preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified in the spirit of 1 Corinthians 2:2, but I must point out that the same Apostle Paul wrote that epistle started with creation when he spoke on Mars Hill. In Acts 17, Paul lays some groundwork for the Gospel, spending time to correct Greek notions of the Creator God, and then proceeds to speak of divine judgment and the Gospel itself. Some have pointed out that Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 concentrates only on the Gospel and judgment and that it was more effectively [numerically speaking] than Paul’s sermon to the Greeks; however, in Why Won’t They Listen?, Ken Ham makes a valid point that Peter spoke to a crowd with a foundational knowledge of the Scriptures, whereas Paul had to build from the ground up. In terms of the Parable of the Sower, Paul was dealing with a culture whose fallow ground was full of stones and choking weeds unreceptive to Gospel seed, whereas Peter dealt with ground that had been plowed and prepared for that glorious moment at Pentecost. Ham makes the argument that our present lack of success in evangelism stems from a common root: the culture’s lack of a Scriptural foundation. Whereas we could at one time preach only Jesus Christ and Him crucified and hundreds if not thousands would respond at mass crusades, in today’s post-Christian society we have few who understand what we mean by original sin and other basic Biblical doctrines.

Our situation is analogous to that of New Tribes Mission’s efforts to reach the Mouk Tribe of Papau, New Guinea. These missionaries tried traditional evangelism methods with almost no success. In order to reach a people with absolutely no Bible knowledge, they began with two months of Old Testament Bible stories. Only after this foundation was laid did they begin teaching about Christ. After teaching them about God and the Bible, NTM missionaries taught them about “Creation, and Adam and Eve, and man’s choice to sin. We explained how God promised a Savior would someday come to deliver us from sin.”

As a preacher, I’ve noticed that sin, the law and hell generally get only a cursory nod, but the Good News can only be fully appreciated in light of the Bad News. We are, one author has put it, selling Jesus, emphasizing the benefits of salvation while minimizing the parts folks might object to, like taking up our cross daily, hell and judgment, probable religious persecution, and repentance resulting in a changed lifestyle. This tendency to soft-sell the Gospel has resulted in a Christianity more concerned with personal fulfillment than self-sacrifice, prosperity rather than service, and comfort and popularity rather than evangelism and discipleship. Even though our Great Commission says to make disciples, we have pews full of believers who suppose that we’re really supposed to get folks to make decisions and that discipleship is somehow Next-Level Christianity. Rather than warning folks to count the cost, as Christ did, we tell them that nobody will be looking when they raise their hand.

These problems vanish when you start preaching the Greatest Story. You understand that a loving Creator made the world and crowned it with man, made in His own image. When you understand that Adam and Eve’s sin was rebellion/high treason against God’s command, you naturally realize that the same Jesus who is Savior must also be Lord of your life precisely because Christ is the Creator. You understand that the judgment of a worldwide flood in the days of Noah was righteous and that man was ultimately responsible for this awful event. When you read the Ten Commandments, you’re struck with your inability to save yourself, just as you’re reminded that way back in Genesis God promised a Redeemer. Which leads us to the Cross and to Christ. We used to call this the Greatest Story Ever Told. We just need to get back to faithfully telling it, from the beginning, just as God revealed it to us in His Word.
Tony Breeden

DefGen.org

Notes:

  1. All Connie Barlow quotes from her essay, Imprinting Is Not Indoctrination [8/30/10, TheGreatStory.org/imprinting.pdf]
  2. Comment asked by nephewofjesus on HuffPo article, New Atheists Promote Bible Study? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/nephewofjesus/new-atheists-promote-bibl_b_1320555_140325325.html and answered by Dowd: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/MBDowd/new-atheists-promote-bibl_b_1320555_140485474.html. He answered, “No, of course not, nephewofjesus! I know the difference between ancient mythic revelation and current evidential revelation. I also know the difference between inspiring myth and inspiring fact. It seems that you do not.”
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