When I watched the Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye debate, I lamented, “Why Lord don’t we have someone of the stature and reputation of Isaac Newton today to defend your creation?” In years gone by Christians were at the forefront of intellectual advancement in science, technology, medicine, literature, art, music, etc. I lamented, “dear Lord, why has this happened? Why do you defend your Word and the testimony of your creation this way? Wouldn’t the world be inclined to believe if you raised up someone who was as respected as Newton to defend creation in the present day?”
Some of the greatest scientists who have ever lived including Newton, who may have been the greatest of all believed in God. But it was hard to be an atheist before Darwin: the illusion [sic] of living design is so overwhelming.
You ask the questions
But then I recalled these verses that have given me peace on the matter.
Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
1 Cor 1 :26-28
Maybe God wants the most intellectual and educated in the world to be the ones that will be fooled by their own folly. I lament that there are no Isaac Newtons in Christendom today, but it seems God delights in choosing the least qualified by worldly standards to shatter the gates of hell.
I realized I’d only be continually frustrated by looking at the earthly qualifications of the people God has chosen to advance his kingdom. I came to peace over it when I realized it could be by design that Christendom and creation science do not have someone of Isaac Newton’s reputation today.
We could alternatively explain the state of affairs in human terms. Newton was unique and in a unique position to become forever famous. Maybe there will never be another one like him. Also, culture has become far more secular than it was in Newton’s time. In the present day, especially for those who believe in creation or ID, one can be Expelled from scientific institutions and have their careers Slaughtered. And most certainly if schools and universities don’t teach creation, the likelihood of scientists of great stature defending creation becomes remote. Those are some of the reasons in human terms why there is no creationist Isaac Newton today (although it can be well argued the original Newton was himself a creationist).
But in this essay, I focus on another reason science is no longer dominated by scientists that are creationists, namely, the modern church. The modern church may be squandering the gifts and talents that God sends its way by discouraging and driving away aspiring scientists and academics.
I nearly lost my Christian faith many years ago because the churches I attended provided few answers to basic questions. “Why should I believe in God? Why should I believe the Bible? Why is there evil in the world? Why does the invisible God seem so invisible in every day life? Why did Jesus say ‘suffer the little children to come unto me’, but then God of the Old Testament (who is one with Jesus) had Amalekite women and children and infants killed?”
Sunday sermons were repetitive, “you need to go out there and witness.” The sermons demanded faith, and rarely did they inspire faith — and inspiring faith would mean answering my questions.
When I nearly left the faith, in desperation, I started studying intelligent design, creation science, archaeology and apologetics on my own since local churches would not give me the answers I was seeking. In my darkest hour, by God’s grace, I was able to find the evidence I needed to restore me back to faith.
Naturally I was eager to share my new found convictions. But to my utter disappointment, the first time I approached a campus Christian leader and offered to share apologetics with his students, he said, “that’s too advanced for them.” What? It’s too advanced to for students to follow the command of God to always be ready to make a defense for the faith? The campus director tells his students to witness, but then refuses to give training to his students on how to answer difficult questions.
And then at one Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) group, the campus director said he was totally uninterested in the creation evolution controversy, even after I told him that one of the members of his group got recently converted to Christianity because I talked about the evidence of creation. He basically showed me the door.
Then I was invited to speak at another IVCF group. I shared with the students my utter delight that science confirmed that man was created through a miraculous process rather than Darwinian evolution. To my horror, after I gave the talk the leadership pulled me aside and sternly warned me never to criticize Darwin again! They said “you can believe in Christianity and evolution”. Indeed you can, but what about those who disbelieve Christianity because they believe Darwinian evolution? Did they ever consider that? Apparently not. I approached yet another IVCF group, and the director just gave me uncomfortable looks and changed the subject. I still sent him a donation because he was one of the few voices for Jesus at the campus of one of the world’s most prestigious schools.
How many sermons in the last 10 years have I heard from Evangelical pastors defending creation? Two. How about Noah’s flood? None. Thank God for the one pastor that devoted an entire sermon to berating Darwinian evolution based on evidence. For the first time ever, I saw a pastor getting an ovation after a sermon. The congregation was so hungry to hear the truth!
But the problem goes beyond the church’s avoidance of creation. There is the general problem of anti-intellectualism especially in Evangelical circles. Unfortunately, some of the most articulate spokesmen for academic advancement by Christians are also anti-creationists themselves. Mark Noll is an example. As an Evangelical himself and historian teaching at Wheaton, he traces the decline of Christians in the sciences and arts in his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Though I have much disagreement with Noll, he echoes figuratively some of my sentiments by opening his book with the claim, “there is no Evangelical mind.”
And so on the one hand, some churches avoid tough intellectual questions and discourage academic advancement, and on the other, those Christians that do promote academic advancement and engagement of tough intellectual questions are often against the teaching of creation. And on top of this, some campus Christian organizations have shown an unwillingness to even discuss creation, and even some forbid criticizing the name of Darwin.
It is a miracle I am still a Christian today. The resistance to teaching God’s miraculous creation of life, the unwillingness or inability to answer difficult questions adequately, and the anti-intellectual climate in some churches is resulting in churches being atheist factories for those scientifically and academically inclined.
And thus to answer the question posed, “Why is there no creationist Isaac Netwon today?”, it could be by design. From a human perspective it can be attributed to culture becoming secular, the persecutions of creationists in secular institutions, the suppression of truth in the schools and universities, but also the church’s unwillingness to promote the idea of creation.
But there is always one comfort that I take refuge in, and that is that God will work all things for the good of those that love him, and he can even use the foibles of his people today and the schemes of his enemies for his greater glory.
I will never forget in 2005, one of the world’s top origin of life researchers, Dr. Robert Hazen, at my undergraduate alma mater George Mason University, angrily protested at an intelligent design lecture I organized for molecular and cell biologist Jonathan Wells.
Dr. Hazen stood up and accused Dr. Wells of promoting religion rather than science. Dr. Wells calmly smiled and responded by posing the following observation to Dr. Hazen in front of the students and faculty (an observation which he has often repeated to others):
If we place a small amount of sterile salt solution in a test tube at just the right temperature and acidity, add a living cell, and then poke a hole in that cell with a sterile needle, the contents will leak out. We will have in our test tube all of the molecules needed for life, in just the right proportions (relative to each other) and already assembled into complex specified DNAs, RNAs, proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates. But we will not be able to make a living cell out of them. We cannot put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Dr. Hazen just stood there speechless, turning red before he stormed out of the room. God doesn’t need an Isaac Newton to defend his creation because the least of his creatures, a humble cell, can vanquish the most brilliant scientist.
To his credit, 5 weeks later Dr. Hazen seemed to have a bit softer heart and spoke well of Dr. Wells and even took time to say a few kind words about Jonathan Wells’ book, Icons of Evolution, at another student meeting (with CBS evening news reporters and cameras present — but the story never aired).
Dr. Hazen is deeply mistaken, but it would be wrong of me to portray him as a villain because he has treated me with kindness and respect. I hope one day Dr. Hazen will see the truth. I have an autographed book of Dr. Hazen’s own version of Genesis. Maybe one day he will acknowledge God’s version of Genesis.