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Return to 1st Quarter 2019 articles.

The title of this month's lead article is Lessons from a cruise ship.

In my lifetime I have seen many different kinds of prejudice. When I was a very small child, I remember my father awakening me in the middle of the night to show me something. He carried me down to the living room and sat me down so that I could look out the front window. In our front yard, there was a cross which was in flames. People wearing white hoods and robes were walking around the burning cross angrily shaking their fists at our front door. You see, my father was a white professor teaching at Talladega State Teacher's College, an all-black college in Talladega, Alabama. My father said to me, “See, this is what Christianity is all about, branding people who do what you don't understand with blind hatred and anger.” That image and that experience have stuck with me for over 70 years. One of the reasons is that I see it reinforced on a daily basis by people who claim to be Christians.

Not long ago I received a phone call from a distressed 80-year-old woman who is a retired science teacher, the widow of a church elder, and a lady with a half-century experience of teaching children in Bible school. She had offered to teach a Sunday morning Bible class in her home congregation, but they refused her that privilege. The reason for their refusal was, “You aren't much of a Christian because you believe in evolution.” Not long after that conversation, I had a lady call me in tears because she had been removed from teaching second graders because, “You believe in science.” My personal experience has been the same as what those Christian ladies have experienced. Like them, I have been branded.

Nearly every day I run into some kind of accusation that lets me know I am discredited because I believe in science and because I freely say “I believe in evolution.” A recent caller explained to me why I was not invited to participate in a summer retreat program, and his exact words were, “You have been branded as a believer in science instead of a Christian.” There are so many problems with all of this that it is hard to know where to start. One of the major factors in young people turning away from Christ and the church is that they want no part of an institution that allows what I have described above to take place. Here are just a few problems for all of us to consider:

.....In the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Galatians, he says: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all” (verse 6). The legalistic view that science is evil and does not help Christians understand how God works, conflicts with much of the Bible. More to the point, it violates how we are to approach one another when we have disagreements. The method and spirit of Matthew 18:15-20 seem to be alien to many of us.

.....Science is simply knowledge, and no one can deny that knowledge is critical to understanding. The Greek word for science is “gnosis” and is used one time in the New Testament, and that is 1 Timothy 6:20. That verse does not condemn science, but it does condemn false science or “godless chatter” with opposing ideas. Romans 1:18-20 tells us that we can gain knowledge of God from the things he has made, and that knowledge is science. When people are told “you just have to believe” they are being told something that is increasingly difficult in our world today. It is also something neither Jesus nor the apostles demanded. Paul used science (knowledge) repeatedly in his evangelism, and most if not all of Jesus' parables depended upon knowledge.

.....Saying one does not believe in evolution to young people today is a statement of such ignorance that further discussion is almost useless. The word “evolution” means an unfolding type of change. We use the word in describing politics, construction, history, economics, medical treatment, education, and especially in agriculture and biology. Who would deny that dogs like the cockapoo, peekapoo, cockapoodle, etc., have evolved? How can anyone dealing with the flu virus, with insect infestations, or varieties of roses or corn or apples deny that change takes place? People attach adjectives to the word evolution to avoid these problems, but macro- or micro- have blurred limits. The real issue is “naturalism” which is a belief system that attempts to remove God from a causal role in these things. My dear sister in Christ who taught the Bible for decades was told she was not much of a Christian because she believes things change. The word for that is “branding.”

.....It is hard to read Romans 14 and not shudder at what has happened to the Lord's church. Instead of preaching the “Good News,” we have absorbed ourselves with denominational questions. Dispensationalism and its political agenda and millennialism with its end times propaganda have brought teachings into the church that oppose science. They also demand constrictive time elements to history and creation and promote conflict involving Christians in verbal if not physical warfare.

Philippians 2:1-15 gives us a picture of the unity God wants us to have. When we focus on Jesus Christ and the good news about God restoring us to the relationship we all need and want, we approach the unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17:11-23. Branding has no place Christ's church.

— John N. Clayton

Picture credits:
© danjmh. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.
© eenevski. Image from BigStockPhoto.com..
© peshkov. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.
© master1305. Images from BigStockPhoto.com.
© Gajus. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.

Scripture links/references are from BibleGateway.com. Unhighlighted scriptures can be looked up at their website.