An open letter regarding the United Methodist Church (UMC)'s stance on the theory of evolution versus special creation:

 

THE CLERGY LETTER PROJECT

Last week I was introduced to the Clergy Letter Project by my pastor mentor via an email that was sent to her mailing list. Apparently this Project has been underway for several years, but I had not previously heard of it. When I began to understand the import of the Project and its attendant heresies, I was heartsick and furious.

This open letter is not an attempt to convince anyone of the truth of God's special creation (or "Intelligent Design," if you will); it is only to register my strong disapproval of the UMC's position regarding the same, to appeal to reason under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to point out the doctrinal dilemma our "theologians" are creating for themselves, and to assure any like-minded believers that they are not alone.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Clergy Letter Project (as I was), here is the text of that document, as copied from the organization's website:

Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.

We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as "one theory among others" is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth. 

The Clergy Letter has been endorsed by many notable representatives of several denominations, and apparently UMC pastors are being urged to add their names to the list, as will be shown momentarily. It is worth noting that our own current District Superintendent is one of the ex post facto signatories of the letter.

While I believe the Clergy Letter to be filled with errors, half-truths, and bald-faced lies at several turns, I will confine my specific comments to the following three observations: 

 

AN EMAIL FROM THE AUTHOR OF THE CLERGY LETTER

Another feature of the email I received from my pastor mentor was an attached note written by Michael Zimmerman, Dean of Butler University, who is apparently the author of the Clergy Letter Project. Selections from that note are reprinted below, with my own comments interjected. 

Dear Members and Friends of The Clergy Letter Project,

I am thrilled to report that The United Methodist Church, at its General Convention just concluded, endorsed The Clergy Letter Project. The resolution that was overwhelmingly passed at the General Convention, which meets once every four years, adds a statement to the Book of Resolution that reads as follows: "The United Methodist Church endorses The Clergy Letter Project and its reconciliatory programs between religion and science, and urges United Methodist clergy participation."

The UMC is urging its clergy to sign a letter saying that the Bible is not strictly what we might regard as "true."

The General Convention also adopted two other resolutions that are very supportive of evolution. The first explicitly adds the acceptance of evolution to the Methodist's Book of Discipline. In part, the resolution states that "We find that science's descriptions of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution are not in conflict with theology."

On its face, that is a true statement. Since any fuzzy-headed, half-baked ruminations that have something to do with God can be labeled as someone's "theology," to say that evolution is not in conflict with theology is more or less true. On the other hand, to imply that the theory of evolution is not in conflict with the Holy Scriptures is just another one of Mr. Zimmerman's brazen lies.

The final resolution adds a new statement to the Methodist's Book of Resolution dealing with creationism and intelligent design. The wording reads as follows, "Therefore be it resolved that the General Conference of the United Methodist Church go on record as opposing the introduction of any faith-based theories such as Creationism or Intelligent Design into the science curriculum of our public schools."

The UMC goes on record as insisting that our children be taught that the Bible is not precisely true. One may rightly wonder what else they wish our children not to learn; the words "opposing the introduction of any faith-based theories" nearly suggest keeping Bibles out of their hands altogether.

This is fabulous news and we owe a debt of gratitude to [the people who made] these three resolutions possible. Please help spread the word about this good news…. Please participate and please spread the word about The Clergy Letter Project. Together we are helping to shape perceptions around the globe.

Note that Mr. Zimmerman calls this violation of God's word "good news," and urges us to help "spread the word," using Christian words and imagery to legitimize his unholy doctrine. We will shortly see this again, from another of the disciples of evolution.

The remainder of Mr. Zimmerman's letter consists largely of an invitation to participate in Evolution Weekend 2009, marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. Mr. Zimmerman expresses delight that "we've never had so many congregations sign up to participate so early!"

 

THANK GOD FOR EVOLUTION?

The final facet of my pastor mentor's email to me contained information about a book called "Thank God for Evolution," and author Michael Dowd's impending visit to our region. I will not belabor the point any further than to direct you to an answer Mr. Dowd gives on the FAQ section of his website:

"I see sacred views of evolution as the Good News (the ‘gospel’) of our time, personally and collectively. I thank God for the entire 14-billion-year epic of cosmic, biological, and human emergence, because an inspiring interpretation of the history of everything and everyone builds bridges, provides guidance, and restores realistic hope for individuals and families, for humanity, and for the body of life as a whole."

Again we see the propagation of another gospel by the evolutionists—Michael Dowd's words, not mine.

I beg you to recall what the Apostle Paul had to say about those who preach a different gospel than the Gospel of Jesus Christ: 

" I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed." —Galatians 1:6-9 NKJV

 

PROBLEMS FOR THE METHODISTS

Creation is not only an Old Testament story. The lives and events of the first man Adam are central to the doctrine of the New Testament as well, and all Christianity. But also consider this: If the scriptures contain fairy tales, where do we draw the line? How can we know? What is truth, and what is merely "inspiring?"

For example, if God didn't part the Sea for Moses and the children of Israel, then why necessarily should we believe that God gave Moses the law? (Perhaps it was just Moses' view of something that was inspiring for mankind.) And if there is no greater authority for the law than that it was just somebody's good idea—not the very commandment of the very Lord—then why should we be condemned as lawbreakers, as Paul asserts numerous times in New Testament writings?

Step back a step further—if there never was any single man named Adam from whom all the world is descended, then what are we to make of the original sin in the garden? Why do we, as Paul contends, bear the guilt of Adam's sin, if there never was an Adam (see especially Romans 5:12-19)?

And if we are freed from Adam's sin (since the story of the garden was clearly a fairy tale), and we cannot be condemned by the law (since its authority is unverifiable), what need do we have of a Savior at all?

Here's another example: the prophet Jonah and his adventure with the great fish, which the Disciple Bible Study plainly refers to as a story of fiction. Apparently Jesus Himself would disagree (see Matthew 12:38-42, where Jesus says that the sign of Jonah is the same sign He will show the Pharisees). Now if Jonah was not delivered from the depths of the sea, how then can we truly believe that Jesus was bodily raised from the dead? Perhaps it was just an inspiring fiction created by the early church to engender faith in God … whoever God is. But again we find the response from the Apostle Paul:

"[I]f Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. … if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile…. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable." —1 Corinthians 15:14, 17, 19 NKJV

If God lied to us from the very first page of His Holy Book, then why should we be reasonably obligated to honor a single word in it?

And that is just where the Methodists find themselves. Open hearts, open minds, open doors. Standing for virtually nothing except the brotherhood of all mankind.

The UMC is now apparently committing itself to a course where all religions are more or less equal, where the Bible can be interpreted as truth or fairy tale (depending on your current mood or whim), and where the inspirational hope for world peace is more important than Jesus' promise that there will be wars and rumors of wars, and Paul's prophetic word that in the last days, terrible times will come, and John's vision of the terrors of end-time tribulation. The Methodists are pursuing a humanistic utopia, where Jesus' words that He is "the way, the truth, and the life" have no place. Where "No one comes to the Father except through Me" has no place.

If this seems like too much of a logical leap to make, I beg your indulgence. I am only a lay pastor of a tiny rural congregation. And I am ashamed for our church that a voice like mine should have to be raised to defend the authority of the Scriptures and to assert the truth of the Gospel. There should be Methodists far more prominent than I am, to lift high the banner of truth and stand unwavering beneath it. And perhaps there are; as I said, I only heard of the Clergy Letter Project just last week.

But herein, I perceive, lies our peril: By denying the truth of the Bible, we are also denying its authority. By making it only an "inspirational" book, we are defying God's absolute claim on our utter obedience. By defying the claims of God, we are laying aside our need for a Savior. And by doing that, we are spitting in the face of Jesus Christ, of whom the Scripture says this: "For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him" (Colossians 1:16 NKJV).

"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools … who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen." —Romans 1:20-22 NKJV

"… [S]coffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.' For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men…. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Be steadfast therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation…. You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen." —selected verses from 2 Peter 3 NKJV

 

Robert W. Tompkins
pastor, Cameron Mills and Rathbone, NY, UMCs
May 19, 2008

 

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