January 1983 · Vol. 12 No. 1 · pp. 39–41 


Marlin E. Thomas

The editors of Direction are to be commended for interacting so perceptibly with the issues of Creationism and Evolutionism as was apparent in the October 1982 issue of Direction. Particularly appreciated was the way in which participators in the debate were drawn from various disciplines and occupational strata of Mennonite Brethren life. Also of great help were the philosophical and methodological issues presented.

I would like to interact with one issue which was raised by the question, “Should Creationism Be Taught in Public Schools?” (pp. 24-31). In one section of his presentation Kerwin Thiessen argues that Creationism should be taught in the public schools because our forefathers intended that “freedom should prevail in all areas of civil life, education included.” He further asserts that both evolution and creation are faith-systems. As such, “each is as religious as the other. Each is as scientific as the other, as well” (pp. 25-6).

Much could be said about the similarities as well as the divergences between Evolutionism and Creationism as “religion” and as “science.” As a preliminary aside I would only like to suggest here that the basic premise of each is quite different. So also is the way in which each is presented to the public. While both do seek to answer questions about origins, and while both demand some sort of faith in the a priori methodology each advances (which in fact is quite divergent one from the other), the stated purpose and goal of presenting Evolutionism, in part at least, is to synthesize the observations of scientists regarding the astronomical, geological, archaeological, and fossil records of antiquity, so that modern man might make some kind of sense out of his passage through time.

Biblical Creationism is more concerned with mankind’s relation to the Creator, and to the Creator’s purpose in elevating mankind to his high position. As such, Creation teaching is designed and intended to call mankind to faith in the eternal God. Such a religious faith-system Evolutionism is not designed to establish. Though it may suggest faith in Humanism as a religious system, it is not designed with that primarily in mind.

What is of greater concern here, however, and must be dealt with forcibly by the evangelical church, is the ultimate extension of the implication that the Constitution guarantees freedom of education, which according to some should then extend to the privilege of teaching religious points of view in the public schools.

If it is true that all “minorities” should be given equal time, it is conceivable {40} that every religious group with children in public education would soon demand equal time for a presentation of their own concept of origins. It thus would not be unrealistic to expect that the theory of beginnings espoused by the North American Indians would soon also be taught alongside Evolutionism and Biblical Creationism. Such a tripartite potpourri would exasperate (and offend) teachers, third-graders, and parents alike, to say nothing of the chaos that would ensue when all religious minorities would jump on the rocket.

The substantive issues which are raised for the church by these observations are at least three in number. First, if the church wishes for society at large to accept the teachings of biblical creation of its “scientific” merits, it must be sure that those teachings are presented as scientifically as possible. Several issues of methodology were raised by other articles in the same issue of Direction cited above. In addition to those we must underscore the hermeneutical dilemma modern North Americans face when they try to interpret ancient literature by a modern, scientific mind set. If we do not first seek to comprehend what the original, ancient recipients of the scriptures understood in their own culture and worldview, we will hardly be able to teach a proper “scientific” view of biblical creation in any classroom.

The second issue for the church is that the proper place for a presentation of sectarian (Christian) views, scientific or otherwise, is in the home and the church, not the compulsory public arena. We would very soon properly rise up in righteous indignation and begin fighting the battle on the other side of the line if our children were taught, shall we say, the Buddhist view of origins right alongside those of Evolutionism, Creationism, and the native American Indians. What is wanting is not more Creationism in school textbooks and classrooms, but more solid Christian education in church programs and Sunday schools. With all of the issues which we face in our generation we hardly have time to feed our children and youth pablum in church while they play Pacman at the corner convenience store, view every kind of alternative household lifestyle on prime-time television, and learn how to operate computers before they enter high school. Neither can we surrender to the public schools the responsibility of the church to teach a proper biblical worldview.

The third issue is that of proclamation and mission. The battle for Creationism will not be won in the courts or in the school system anyway; it will ultimately be won or lost by the way in which Christians and churches fulfill their obligation to be Christian ambassadors. Battles resolved in the courts face the unhappy prospect of only intensifying the polarity that already exists between the two sides. This can have no other effect than to cast further public discreditation upon the conservative view of the Christian faith. {41}

Religious points of view taught in the public arena by public servants can never fulfill the purpose of which Isaiah spoke when he affirmed that the Word of God would never return void. When parents and churches adequately perform their appointed tasks of teaching the children given into their care the Christian views and theories which they hold dear, no secular school system will easily dislodge them. Beyond that, it is far better for Christians to meet the world before the “Altar to the Unknown God” than to debate theories of origins in a court of law or ask the world to teach Christian theories for them. The mission of the church is primarily that of proclamation of faith in and commitment to God. Only as it is adequately carried out will other important issues of faith and life be brought into alignment.

Marlin E. Thomas
Waukegan, Illinois.