Creationism in the Netherlands
by W.J. Ouweneel, Ph.D.
In the last four years or so, creationism has developed so rapidly in the Netherlands that without doubt this country is assuming the lead in creationism at present in Europe. Several factors were responsible for this fast growth of the movement. For a number of years a small group of Christians in Holland still resisted the dogma of evolutionism, although even the Free University in Amsterdam (for a long time an orthodox bulwark for evangelical Christianity and creationism) had given in to theistic evolutionism. Several scientists at this University, particularly the biologist, Dr. Jan Lever, and the geologist, Dr. J.R. van de Fliert have written books and booklets and have traveled around the country to convince the Christian community that "fundamentalist" creationism was dead and that theistic evolutionism was the "gospel" for the Christian scientist. At the end of the sixties it seemed as if they had almost won the battle. In 1968, Lever gave a large number of radio lectures in which he explained his point of view and which were very well received; the lectures were published in a book that immediately became a modest bestseller. In the same year van de Fliert published a booklet in which he "refuted" the famous work of J.C. Whitcomb and H.M. Morris (The Genesis Flood). For most Christians in the Netherlands this booklet by a professional Christian geologist settled the question -- the battle seemed to be over. (However, since this book is not available in the Dutch language, few Christians in Holland have read it. Ed.)
A small group of Christians resisted, however. Few were scientists, but they were courageous and persistent. A leading position among them was assumed by Mr. Frederick J. Kerkhof, a business man, who developed four important activities. First, he held meetings and gave lectures on creationism for students and interested Christians. Secondly, he translated the well-known book by the theologian A.M. Rehwinkel (The Flood). It was, in fact, the first modern Dutch work on catastrophic geology, was surprisingly well received and enjoyed several reprints. Thirdly, Mr. Kerkhof was co-founder of the Foundation for Publication of Reformed Books which published small books on creationism, two by theologians and one by an economist. Another translation published was Byron C. Nelson's After Its Kind.
Fourthly, Kerkhof was co-founder of the Foundation for the Advancement of Studies Faithful to the Bible, which was founded in November 1974, and over which he has presided since then. Its secretary became Willem J.J. Glashouwer, theologian and television producer at the Evangelical Broadcasting Company. The mathematician J. (Koos) A. van Delden, M.Sc., became treasurer; he was a teacher and television producer and well-known in creationist circles by his many newspaper articles against evolutionism. The aims of the Foundation are to further scientific research in light of the Scriptures and to serve as wide a circle as possible with the results of this work. The Foundation is based on the Bible, the infallible, inspired Word of God, and is convinced that God has revealed in this Holy Scripture His creating and redeeming deeds from the beginning of the world until its consummation, and that the creation in six days, the fall, and the world-wide flood are historical data which science should take into account. Three times a year the Foundation organizes a one-day national conference on subjects in the field of Bible and science. At these meetings, which are well attended (150 to 200 people each time), two or three experts in the field give a lecture, there is a general discussion., and usually a movie is shown. So far the subjects have been: "Creation or Evolution."; "The View of Man in Psychology"; "Maoism"; "The Interpretation of Genesis One"; "The Sexual Revolution"; "Bible and Archaeology: The Chronology Problem"; "The Noahic Flood and Geology"; "Bible and Economy"; "Science and Ideology." The lectures of each conference are published in a booklet.
Secondly, the Foundation started a bimonthly magazine in September 1975, the chief editor of which became Dr. Willem J. Ouweneel. This magazine, called Bijbel en Wentenschap ("Bible and Science"), has 2200 subscribers at present; this is quite good for a young, Dutch, sometimes rather technical journal! It publishes reports, communications, and scientific articles on a popular level in many different fields of science, scholarship, and learning (in contrast to American creationist magazines which are usually limited to the natural sciences). Since the start of this magazine, Dr. Ouweneel has closely cooperated with the Foundation. In fact, he was the first Dutch scientist in the revival of the creationist movement who became very active in lecturing and writing on the creation model. Active in developmental-biological research for the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences until December 1, 1976, in the last few years he has given several hundred lectures for students, teachers, religious leaders and mixed audiences, in eight different countries so far, by which tens of thousands of people were reached. His writings on creationism started in 1974 with the book Notes on Genesis One (translated into German and English) and a little booklet for young people: What is the Truth: Creation or Evolution?, of which already a hundred thousand have been printed in several languages. In 1975, his major book Operation Superman appeared in Dutch, which was quickly sold out and of which one of the best known theologians in Holland said that it broke the power and monopoly of the evolution doctrine in this country. It was followed in 1976 by The Ark in Agitation (on flood geology) and in 1977 by Youth in a Dying Age (on philosophical and moral consequences of the evolution doctrine).
In the meantime, at least eight different publishers in Holland have published one or more creationist books! There is an increasing stream of such works translated into, or directly written in, Dutch. Recently, also a book by J.A. van Delden (Creation and Science) appeared in which he wrote on the nature and limits of science, its relation to the Bible, and the creation and evolution models. Many science students and practicing scientists have been very much encouraged by all these works, and we would guess that at present there are at least a hundred natural scientists (beside many other people, of course) who fully accept, or strongly sympathize with, the creation model.
An important development in 1977 was the founding of an Evangelical College on the initiative of the creationist Foundation mentioned. University training in the Netherlands has been very much influenced by evolutionism, Marxism, Maoism, atheism, and liberalism, creating a spiritual climate in which already many students raised in Christian families have gone astray. In certain respects the two so-called Christian universities are among the worst examples. Therefore, many evangelical Christians urgently felt the need of an institution for university education based on the Bible as the Word of God speaking with authority not about salvation only but also where it speaks about history, the cosmos, and nature. In September 1977 the Evangelical College started with one-year undergraduate training in eleven different university disciplines, with a strong emphasis on a Christian approach to philosophy, the philosophical basis of knowledge, and the relationship of the Bible to the sciences and scholarship. It is hoped that as soon as possible the College will be able to offer a full university training in several disciplines. There is a strong emphasis on general Bible knowledge, general skills (such as training in lecturing, writing, management, organization, communication, typewriting and English) and social and spiritual aspects. A total of 32 students matriculated at the College for its first year, but a much greater number is expected for the 1978 / 79 course. J. A. van Delden, M.Sc., is full-time director and teacher of the Biblical scientific method, Dr. W.J. Ouweneel is teacher of philosophy and chairman of the Board of Teachers. F.J. Kerkhof and W.J.J. Glashouwer are members of the governing body, of which the engineer, Dr. Cornelis Roos, is the president. The first course includes as optional disciplines: General Science, Biology, Philology, History/Archaeology, Sociology/Politicology, Psychology, Cultural Anthropology, Pedagogics/ Didactics, and Biblical Criticism. Of each discipline, the philosophical foundations and basic problems, the historical answers to these problems (i.e., the various secular philosophies that dominate this discipline), and the Biblical answers to these problems are taught. The school is financed for a very small part by the students; for the greater part the College is dependent on donations.
It appears that 1977 will be remembered as a decisive year in the development of the creationist movement in the Netherlands. Not only the foundation and official opening (500 present!) of the Evangelical College attracted the attention of the press, the scientific world, and many church leaders, but even further attention was drawn by two other events. J.A. van Delden, M.Sc., until his becoming the director of the Evangelical College (November 1, 1977), had as a television producer with the Evangelical Broadcasting Company (Evangelische Omroep, Oude Amersfoortseweg 79a, Postbus 565, Hilversum) the opportunity to make six one-half hour television programs on the creation-evolution issue. Very intensive advertising was done for these programs so that they were watched by more than half a million people each time, and we hope many more will see the educational video material and slide series based on these programs and made available to school teachers. These stirring programs aroused very much interest in the press and led to many radio and newspaper discussions. Especially after these programs and the attention they received in the news media there will not be very many Dutch people left who are not aware of the creationist movement! Theologians are urged to give their opinion in public, scientists are asked to take issue with the creationists and many do this in a very sarcastic way -- but at least the issue has general attention. Many scientists as well as theologians now realize and admit that the creation-evolution issue is not dead at all, and that they will continue to be confronted with it.
In the framework of these television programs a public debate between three evolutionists and three creationists was organized by the Evangelical Broadcasting Company. The evolu-tionists were C.E. Koppeschaar (astronomer, science journalist), C. Laban (geologist, science journalist), and Dr. M. Sluijser (biochemist in cancer research). The creationists were Dr. H.S. Slusher (geo- and astrophysicist, University of Texas, El Paso), Dr. D.E. Chittick (physico-chemist, George Fox College), and Dr. D.T. Gish (biochemist, Institute for Creation Research). During an all-day conference, presided over by Dr. W.J. Ouweneel and attended by more than a thousand people, these six speakers gave 25-minute lectures, and then debated each other directly two by two, in astronomy, geology, and biology sessions, respectively. In a plenary session written questions from the audience were discussed. At the end, the creationists argued that the creation model and the evolution model should both be taught so that the students could make their own scientific choice. Of the evolutionists, only Laban would allow a place for the creation model in education. Several scientists and theologians in the audience, however, who were known for their sympathy for the evolution model, admitted in interviews to be impressed by the creation model, and pleaded for a continued discussion. Parts of the debate and the interviews were broadcast on television. Everywhere it is observed that students, scientists, and church leaders are starting to take the creation model seriously. Dr. W.J. Ouweneel was invited to present the creation model in various secular schools for high school biology teachers, for the simple reason that the school leaders admitted they could not honestly present the evolution model as the sole explanation anymore.
Another important point is that many church leaders have been stirred up. Most of them had thought that there was no case for a scientific creation model anymore, and now gladly take interest in what scientists with a Biblical point of view have to say on the matter. Many of them invite creationists to speak to their young people or attend our lectures with their youth groups. Even more important is that the universities have become interested and offer opportunities to debate the evolution problem. Sometimes there is much opposition. Dr. Ouweneel gave three lectures at the Dutch speaking university of Gent (Belgium) and was much opposed by Marxist students. At the beginning of the second lecture one of them (without permission) took the floor and wanted to refute the first lecture in five minutes by asserting that the earth strata could never have originated in forty days of the flood -- a thing that had never been alleged. He (and his friends') other objections also could be easily answered so that the audience (550 people) experienced the debate as a gain for the creation model. The opposite experience can also occur, Van Delden had a public debate with a biology, professor at the Agricultural University of Wageningen, and although he was an evolutionist he heartily agreed with van Delden on all the difficulties and weaknesses of the evolution model; he accepted that life could not have arisen spontaneously, that mutation and natural selection could not explain general evolution, that the biogenetic law was nonsense, and that nothing could account for the development from an apelike mammal into a man! Why he still was an evolutionist was unclear; the most important reason seemed to be that he did not like the idea of a sudden creation.
An essential question is now how to carry on. This demands dependency on the Lord, to see the right way clearly. One important point would be to influence secondary-school education. Our school system is very much different from that in the States because Christian schools are as much subsidized by the government as public schools so that by far most Christian parents can send their children to Christian schools. Especially through the revival of creationism, quite a few school teachers, even in biology, have taken interest in the creation model, and we plan to supply them with video and slide material to help them in their teaching. For school books with a creationist point of view there hardly seems to be a market, publish a book with creationist chapters on which he has presided since then. Its biology as well as on geography and history which could be distributed through the parents rather than through the teachers. We also should continue translating books from English; we plan to publish Dutch translations of R.E.D. Clark, Darwin: Before and After, and of W. E. Lammerts (ed.), Why Not Creation? and several others. A number of years ago H.M. Morris' book The Twilight of Evolution had already been translated and published but the publisher got so much opposition in his own church that he withdrew the book! We think that now the time is ripe to try to publish the book again.
We do not think the battle is won. On the contrary, there is still very much to do; we are just at the beginning. But we feel much encouraged by what the Creator has granted for us in the period behind us; we trust He will bless further, too.
Cite this article: W.J. Ouweneel, Ph.D. 1978. Creationism in the Netherlands. Acts & Facts. 7 (2).