Monkey’s Uncle–Or Not?

“In the beginning,” says Genesis 1:1, “God created the heavens and the earth.” Christians accept that—but HOW?

Since the birth of modern science, the question of our origins, tossed like a meaty bone into the arena of public debate, has fuelled tremendous wrangling. Church leadership and laity, government and state, educational boards and parents, teachers and students, scientists and other scientists have all had a go at the bone: Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, or Genesis 1 creation story?

Darwin, say most. Captain Robert FitzRoy feared that would happen.

In 1831, England’s government had commissioned FitzRoy, a 26-year-old geologist of significant scientific knowledge, to study the lands around the southern tip of South America. Expecting a lengthy, lonely voyage, FitzRoy invited a freshly graduated theology student with a lifelong interest in flora and fauna to join him aboard his ship, the HMS Beagle.

From 1831 until 1836, the Beagle dawdled around the tip of South America, sailing in and out of its coastline harbours and nearby islands. Both men kept detailed notes of their explorations, including those made on and surrounding the Galapagos Islands.

What emerged at the end of their five-year journey would change the world’s view of its origins. Reflecting on what he’d seen, FitzRoy had found himself drawn—rather reluctantly, history records, to the certainty that his careful observations verified the Genesis account of creation. His companion seemed determined to differ.

The two subsequently published their findings. In the years since, FitzRoy’s account has faded into the annals of history. Charles Darwin’s conclusions, published eventually as the book “Origin of Species” became the “bible” of evolutionary theory, and remains so today.

Darwin’s theories horrified FitzRoy. Until his death, he strove to stop his former companion’s ideas from gaining public acceptance, ruing his part in enabling Darwin’s studies. Once, he even interrupted a historic creation/evolution debate at Oxford University. Holding his Bible aloft, he implored the crowd to “rather, believe God!”

A few evenings ago the Preacher and I spent a fascinating several hours with a man whose mission echoes FitzRoy’s. For decades, he has tirelessly promoted the biblical account of a literal six-day creation. Raising his own resources, he purchases and distributes an ever-growing volume of material and scientific research that challenges the theory of evolution and the widespread assumption of its truth.

Is understanding the truth of our origins worthwhile, or even necessary, to Christian belief?

“No,” say many. But those who advocate for a more literal understanding of scripture, people like FitzRoy and our companion of the other evening, say, “Absolutely. If the Bible is wrong on this, then all of scripture become dubious.”

Whatever else believers do with the opposite sides of the creation/evolution debate, a genuine search for truth should lead us to intelligent exploration of the largely unheard “other side of the story,” the evidence that fuelled FitzRoy’s passionate call to, “rather, believe God!”

***

Got time? Start exploring the topic by watching a debate between two Canadians on the Michael Coren Show: