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The title and subtitle of Greg Cootsona’s Mere Science and Christian Faith: Bridging the Divide with Emerging Adults (IVP, 2018) suggests his two chief ways of selling Darwinism to Christians: C.S. Lewis (who should have trademarked “mere”) was for it, and evangelicals should make their peace with Darwinism for the sake of the children who will otherwise abandon the gospel.
We could ignore Cootsona’s poor writing except that he directs the program in Science and Theology for Emerging Adult Ministries (STEAM) at Fuller Theological Seminary, so his sales pitches are influential—but they’re also superficial, at best.
As John West wrote in The Magician’s Twin: C.S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society (Discovery, 2012), Lewis saw the limitations of Darwinism: “It does not in itself explain the origin of organic life, nor of the variations.” Rather than thinking humans had evolved since Creation, Lewis emphasized devolution: Before the Fall, Adam had unimpeded fellowship with God (“God came first in his love and in his thought”) and complete control over animals (“He commanded all lower lives with which he came into contact”). Not anymore.
Lewis particularly insisted on original innocence followed by original sin—“I believe that Man has fallen from the state of innocence in which he was created: I therefore disbelieve in any theory which contradicts this.” In Miracles (1947), Lewis criticized those who “say that the story of the Fall in Genesis is not literal.” Lewis corresponded for 16 years with Bernard Acworth, a leader in Britain’s Evolution Protest Movement, and in 1951 wrote that Acworth’s work “has shaken me: not in my belief in evolution, which was of the vaguest and most intermittent kind, but in my belief that the question was wholly unimportant.”
Lewis at that point understood how evolution could be “the central and radical lie in the whole web of falsehood that now governs our lives.” That’s why Cootsona’s argument that church leaders should embrace macroevolution because otherwise kids will walk away from church is so wrong: Accepting evolution propels many toward unbelief. When we don’t try to turn them around, we are accomplices to surrender.
Christians increasingly can oppose atheism with not only faith but science, as Hugh Ross points out in The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Latest Scientific Discoveries Reveal God (RTB, 2018). Nevertheless, many scientists continue to put faith in evolutionary things unseen. Others see the problems but know what will happen if they think independently: Matti Leisola and Jonathan Witt show the professional consequences in Heretic: One Scientist’s Journey from Darwin to Design (Discovery, 2018).
When I was a teen I revered Sigmund Freud, so it was good to read Freud: The Making of an Illusion by Frederick Crews (Henry Holt, 2017). Crews shows how Freud betrayed his mentors and his patients, never cured anyone, falsified case histories, had long-running sex with his sister-in-law, and more.
How could such a fraud gain such fame? Crews lists the long-term trends that benefited him, including discontent with “bourgeois hypocrisy,” a current of “dark Romanticism,” the rise of an anti-establishment avant-garde, and especially “a waning of theological belief” by which psychotherapy could inherit “religion’s traditional role in providing guidance and consolation.” When we stop believing in God, we often start believing in those like Freud who claim to be brilliant and fearless explorers. Happily, that particular “mass infatuation” is over.
Some among today’s teens might be influenced by John Shelby Spong’s Unbelievable (HarperOne, 2018), a conventional book from the theological left. Spong, a retired Episcopal bishop who was an early ordainer of gay clergy, sees “The Collapse of the Salvation Story” as a great boon to humankind and Charles Darwin as the hero who overturned “the ancient Jewish myth of creation.” (Now that many secular historians have date-substituted c.e.—common era—for a.d., Spong may be one of the few non-Christians who uses a.d., but in his case it means “After Darwin.”) —M.O.