This familiar Genesis story about Esau selling his birthright for a mess of pottage is mentioned in the New Testament as a warning to professing Christians who are being tempted to compromise in order to gain temporary favor with the world. Do not be like Esau, the writer says in effect, "who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright" (Hebrews 12:16).
This very pertinent warning, however, has recently been given a novel twist by Michael Ruse, one of the leading anti-creationists of our time, professor of philosophy and zoology at the University of Guelph, in Ontario. Ruse has devoted much of his time in recent years to defending Darwinism and fighting creationism. He has written books on the subject, participated in creation/evolution debates, and served as a witness for the evolutionists in opposing the proposed creation law in Arkansas.
However, he had been brought up in a Quaker family, had become familiar with the Scriptures, and has even admired (to the chagrin of his evolutionary colleagues) that he "likes" creationists personally. He was weaned away from Christianity in college by evolutionary teaching and his unhappiness with the "exclusive" nature of the Christian gospel.
A recent issue of Zygon, a journal devoted to discussing the relation between science and religion, was dedicated to him and his writings. In discussing his background, Ruse made the following striking comment:
I am sorry to be so rude about this (not that sorry!), but perhaps my indignation is a good point on which to go out … I really want to believe. I find the goodies offered by Christianity extremely attractive. But I am d---d (again!) if I am going to sell my evolutionary birthright for a mess of religious pottage.1
Despite his undoubted erudition, I think Professor Ruse--like Esau--has made a very bad bargain. To dismiss the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and the eternal salvation it purchased for all who follow Him as merely a mess of religious pottage, and to cling to such an unproved, unreasonable, impossible system as evolutionism, as though it were a precious birthright to be retained at ail costs, is a poor bargain. As Jesus said: "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Matthew 16:26).
At least Dr. Ruse understands the issue—probably better than most Christians, in fact— and so cannot plead ignorance when he eventually faces his Creator, as someday he certainly will. He expresses it thus:
Either humankind is in a state of original sin or it is not. If it is, then there was reason for Jesus to die on the cross. If it is not, Calvary has as much relevance as a gladiator's death in the Colosseum.2
It is evident that the distinguished professor does clearly understand the importance of the sin question. Death is the penalty for sin and, since all men are sinners, only the substitutionary death of the sinless Son of God can atone for sin and provide salvation.
It was, therefore, necessary for God to become man--for the Creator also to become the Redeemer--in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Michael Ruse understands this also:
Either Jesus Christ was the Son of God or He was not. If He was, other religions are false. Missionaries--Jesuits past and Evangelicals at present right about this. If He was not, Christianity is a fraud--no salvation, no heaven, no nothing.3
Yes, he understands, all right, at least with his mind. Nevertheless, in his heart, he refuses to believe, because he knows his precious evolutionary "birthright" logically would have to be junked.
It is remarkable, on the other hand, that so many professing Christians feel they can somehow accommodate evolution in their Christian faith, when the evolutionists themselves (at least the leaders, rather than the followers, of evolutionary thought) practically all say it can't be done. Isaac Asimov (probably the most prolific scientist writer of all time) has said, for example:
I am an atheist, out and out.... I do not have the evidence to prove that God does not exist, but I so strongly suspect he does not that I do not want to waste my time.4
Similarly, a current leader in the field of evolutionary philosophy, Dr. David Hull, a philosophy professor at Northwestern University, says:
The evolutionary process is rife with happenstance, contingency, incredible waste, death, pain, and horror.5
With respect to the character of any "god" who would use evolution as his process of evolution, Hull goes on to say that
…God implied by evolutionary theory and the data of natural history … is not a loving God who cares about his productions. He is … careless, indifferent, almost diabolical. He is certainly not the sort of God to whom anyone would be inclined to pray.6
Charles Darwin himself long ago recognized this diabolical character of evolution.
Darwin himself commented most forcefully upon the inefficient and basically unpleasant character of his process, writing to his friend Joseph Hooker in 1856: "What a book a devil's chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering law, and horribly cruel works of nature!" 7
Why is it so difficult for theistic evolutionists and progressive creationists to see the complete incompatibility of the idea of a billion years of suffering and death among billions of animals (including pre-Adamite "men"), as supposedly documented in the fossil record of the evolutionary ages of geology, with the Biblical revelation of an omniscient, loving Creator?
It is not because the scientific evidence requires them to believe in these long ages of evolution. Even Darwin's real reason for developing his theory of evolution was not to explain the scientific evidence, but rather to get away from the Christian idea of God.
Although he originally studied to be an Anglican clergyman, Darwin began to have serious doubts about Christianity long before he wrote The Origin of Species. Here is his testimony.
Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete.... I can indeed hardly see how anyone could wish Christianity to be true, for if so ... my father, brother and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. In addition, this is a damnable doctrine.8
And so Darwin traded his birthright of what he called the "damnable doctrine" of the saving grace of Christ for the pottage of what he called "the horribly cruel works of nature." This was not because of his science, but because of his arbitrary rejection of God's Word.
The same seems to have been true also of Michael Ruse. His low view of Christianity is set forth in the following diatribe.
Some of the problems of Christianity strike me, as being so blatantly rational-belief-destroying that there is almost a sense of farce in seeing its devotees trying to wriggle from under them. Chief among these is the problem of explaining how somebody's death two thousand years ago can wash away my sins. When you combine this with the doctrine of the Trinity and the implication that the sacrificial lamb is God Himself (or itself) and that this therefore makes things all right with this self-same God, the rational mind boggles.9
Perhaps Dr. Ruse's mind boggles at the saving gospel of Christ, but there have been millions of men and women of rational mind throughout the Christian era who have found profound mental--as well as spiritual--peace only in this great revelation of God.
Rather than bringing the Bible into ridicule, Ruse is fulfilling one of its ancient prophecies: "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18).
At least Ruse does have a realistic insight concerning the impossibility of trying to merge the Christian and evolutionary worldviews.
I have a loathing of attempts to meld science and religion which entail the trimming of religion in such a way that it fits with science, but at the cost of gelding it of real content and mystery--attempts which include the traditional varieties of evolutionary humanism, based all too often on so-called ‘noble lies’ or just plain bad arguments. 10
In the mean time, let me urge our evangelical brethren once more not to yield to the increasingly powerful temptation to trade away their noble Biblical, creationist, Christian birthright for an ephemeral mess of evolutionary pottage.
1 Michael Ruse, "A Few Last Words--Until the Next Time," Zygon (volume 29, March 1994), p. 79.
2 Ibid., p. 78.
3 Ibid., p. 79.
4 Isaac Asimov interview by Paul Kurtz, "An Interview with Isaac Asimov on Science and the Bible," Free Inquiry (Vol. 2, Spring 1982), p. 9.
5 David L. Hull, "The God of the Galapagos,"Nature (vol. 352, August 8, 1992), p. 486.
7 Stephen Jay Gould, "Darwin and Paley Meet the Invisible Hand," Natural History (November 1990), p. 12.
8 Charles Darwin, "Autobiography," reprinted in The Voyage of Charles Darwin, edited by Christopher Rawlings, 1978, New Scientist (volume 104, December 1984), P. 75.
9 Michael Ruse, "From Belief to Unbelief--and Halfway Back," Zygon (volume 29, March 1994), p. 31.
10 Ibid. p. 33.
* Dr. Morris is Founder and President of the Institute for Creation Research.